Confinement or Compassion
Is Imprisonment an Effective Deterrent to Substance Abuse During Pregnancy?
© 2003 Teresa Kellerman
There has been enough written on this issue, that I don't really need to add anything else. So here are selected sites with plenty of reading material to help you decide for yourself what the best strategy is to address the problem of pregnant substand abusers.
In response to South Carolina's legislation that made substance abuse during
pregnancy a crime punishable by imprisonment, twenty Amicus Curie briefs were
filed by various agencies and organizations, including National Association of
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors; American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists' National Association of Social Workers, Inc.; American Nurses
Association; and National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
The briefs all claim that enactment of laws that call for imprisonment of
pregnant women who abuse alcohol and other drugs would not be a deterrent to
substance abuse, but would be a deterrent to seeking treatment.
The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and
many other group formally oppose criminal prosecutions of mothers of
"Society is effected by the increased health care costs and educational
expenses attributed to the affected fetuses that grow into affected children and
adults. Therefore, prevention of substance abuse by pregnant women should be the
focus, and not criminalization as an ineffective deterrent." Pregnancy, Maternal & Fetal Rights, and the Effects of
Maternal Drug Abuse on Society: Annotated Bibliography
Governmental Responses to Pregnant Women Who Use Alcohol or Other Drugs
The Future of Children, a publication of The David and Lucile
Packard Foundation, offers a common sense approach in this article: Interventions with Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs
Dr. Ann Streissguth at the Fetal Alcohol Drug Institute in Seattle,
Washington, has a program for comprehensive treatment of women who abused
alcohol during pregnancy, called P-CAP, that has proven successful, and is
compassionate as well as effective.
To understand the problem, one needs to understand addiction and the plight
and history of the woman who drinks or uses other drugs during pregnancy.
Here is a collection of articles and links about why women drink during
pregnancy and why it is so challenging to find viable solutions.
This speech by Dr. Sterling Clarren describes his studies of the backgrounds
of the birth mothers whose children were seen in his clinic. This talk
helps to clarify why prosecuting substance abuse during pregnancy would be
neither effective or ethical.
FAS Community Resource Center