Drug use during pregnancy: Junior and I will take two packs of Camel Lights, please

If you have not already done so, it’s a good idea to read the introduction to this discussion first.

Two pregnant women comparing their very large bellies Kellie Burns started this conversation on May 6, 2008 10:58 PM (CC-BY-SA-3.0-US Licensed; read more info):

A mother is supposed to nurture and care for her child. The child’s well-being is the mother’s full responsibility. Yes, I believe that if a woman chooses to become pregnant than she should commit to a healthy pregnancy and baby. During my pregnancy, I went as far as to cut out chocolate (which I happen to love). Not only should a pregnant woman cut out harmful substances such as drugs, she should also eat healthy foods that include proper nutrition needed for the development of the unborn fetus. However, not all women are capable of the discipline necessary to avoid harmful substances while pregnant. Legal drugs as well as illegal drugs are exceptionally addictive. It isn’t really a matter of “should a woman quit or avoid drugs during pregnancy?” It is more a matter of “is she capable of quitting drugs during pregnancy?” Drugs cannot be taken lightly. I have seen many friends and family members try to quit smoking cigarettes, and 99% of them have failed. Rehabilitation centers exist out of necessity.

A woman should not be punished for drug use during pregnancy. A law to discipline women during pregnancy would be extremely hard to enforce. As you are well aware, any fertile woman is capable of conceiving. Unfortunately, unlike a driver’s license, she need not venture down to the local DMV to take tests in order to conceive. Therefore, we will constantly have unfit mothers (including crack addicts, alcoholics, and etc.) birthing our children. Although this is unfortunate and sad, it is impossible to regulate. Why stress and worry about something so uncontrollable? To monitor and/or regulate a woman’s intake during pregnancy would be absurd. The resources, time, and money to accomplish this task would be far too extensive. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 4,138,349 births in the US in 2005. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm)

Does it really make it better to blame and punish the woman? Do you think that she will stop using drugs to avoid punishment or consequences? She is obviously not concerned with consequences.

The rights of a mother and her unborn baby lead to a very touchy debate of Pro-Life VS. Pro-Choice. How can you discuss the rights of a fetus and rights of its mother without diving into the topic of abortion? I am uncomfortable with discussing my stance on abortion. People are either pro-choice or pro-life, and they will not change their mind based on an argument that they have heard a million-and-one times over. The rights of a mother and her unborn child are very debatable and subjective. The rights are not “black and white.”

In a perfect world, women would avoid drug use during pregnancy. Unfortunately, that isn’t where you or I live. I’m not going to waste my time worrying about something that I can’t control. If I had a friend or family member that abused drugs during pregnancy, then I would use all my resources available to offer them help.

Lori Barker replied to Kellie on May 7, 2008 6:23 AM (CC-BY-SA-3.0-US Licensed; read more info):

Kellie,

Very impressive post! I liked that you addressed how it would be virtually impossible to enforce laws concerning pregnant women. I strongly agree that is a women is already using drugs, and is addicted, why would she stop just because she is pregnant? If she is addicted she needs help not punishment. I also commend you on your stance on not discussing your stance on abortion. It would definitely start a debate and would end in a “stalemate”. As you said, it would be best to use all resources to get help for the addicted woman. If we could help before she gets pregnant, wouldn’t that be great?

Again, great post, I really enjoyed reading it.

Lori

Kellie Burns replied to Lori on May 6, 2008 10:58 PM (CC-BY-SA-3.0-US Licensed; read more info):

Thanks for the compliment on my post. It is always difficult to approach the discussion subjects. I feel that we are all passionate about our views and opinions. It is nice to have someone agree with one of my views:) Your positive feedback is appreciated.

It really is unfortunate when people, both men and women, become addicted to drugs. They lose themselves, they lose their common sense, they lose compassion, their morals, their values, etc, etc. Drug addicts can simply hurt anyone in that gets in their way of the next high. I honestly don’t think that they care one bit about consequences. I feel new laws would be a waste of time and money. We already have drug laws in effect.

I agree that it would be great to get women help before pregnancy. I even think that a smoker should try to quit, and confirm she is able to quit before conceiving.

I even had a crazy thought during my brain storm of this discussion… Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the drug addicted women have their tubes tied? They could offer government assisted or paid sterilization surgeries to women addicted to hard drugs such as crack and methamphetamines. Then I thought again, and realized this idea would never work. A woman would probably regret her decision upon sobriety. Plus, addicts are so out of their rational mind that they shouldn’t be allowed to make such an important decision, such as sterilization.

No matter how many ways I approach this topic, I keep reaching the same conclusion: offer well-structured support and resources to the best of our ability, but only when the addict is ready to accept the help.

A student who wishes to remain anonymous and did not give her permission to publish her comments replied to Kellie.

The student agreed with Kellie, but wondered how enforcement would work. One possibility, though a difficult one, would be to test every woman for pregnancy who ordered a drink at a bar. Another option would be parenting classes in high school and college to encourage responsibility. There are already enough laws covering illegal substance abuse.

Kellie Burns replied on May 7, 2008 9:56 PM (CC-BY-SA-3.0-US Licensed; read more info):

Parenting classes are actually a really great idea. It is surprising how many people can benefit from parenting classes. I always figured that a lot of parenting was common sense, and that books on parenting were (excuse my French) B.S.

Now that I am a parent, I look for good tips. I’m not so quick to judge, and I love it when other parents share good ideas.

A different student who wishes to remain anonymous and did not give his permission to publish his comments replied to Kellie.

He agreed with most of what Kellie said. However, he could not accept permitting even a small number of mothers to use drugs while pregnant in lieu of figuring out a way to punish such women, even though that would prove a difficult task. He feels that in high-risk situations, accountability is even more important, and by carrying a baby inside her certainly qualifies as that. Despite the difficulty in detection and enforcement, some sort of deterrent, besides the obvious health problems, must be implemented to convince women to stop using drugs. An option he suggested was to prosecute the mother under existing drug laws since she was breaking the law anyway.

Kellie Burns replied to Lori on May 6, 2008 10:58 PM (CC-BY-SA-3.0-US Licensed; read more info):

Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your thoughts. I have to disagree with holding pregnant women accountable for harming a baby with drugs. Some drug addicts are not rational thinkers.

I honestly believe that crack addicts have no respect for laws, regulations, and consequences. The only thing that they are concerned with is their next high. They are already breaking existing drug laws. Why would we give them a couple more laws to break?

Maybe it would work to discipline the rational and sane drug abusers…Smokers perhaps? If there were a very pregnant woman having a ciggy in public, you could turn her in. Would you dial 911 to report her? Would she receive a ticket and court date? Would the cop delay a more important call, for example an armed bank robbery with a hostage situation? The officer may have a delay to the robbery due to his argument with the hormonal pregnant smoker. It could be more beneficial to all involved if a concerned citizen handed the woman a quit smoking hot line number, or perhaps the number of a hypnotherapist. It is possible that the offered resource (in addition to her existing guilt) would be enough for her to seek assistance. Quite a few of these women must feel guilt for smoking while pregnant. Cigarettes don’t take away the addicts mind. Maybe some of them could stop with the proper resources.

I realize we may have to agree to disagree on this discussion. I look forward to more of your thoughts.

I replied to Kellie on May 7, 2008 11:59 PM:

Kellie, you did an excellent job of describing the situation. I agree that most people addicted to drugs are not capable of making rational decisions about their own health or the well-being of others. If they were, they would realize that they were addicted and stop being users. Whether it is an addictive personality, a chemical or psychological dependence, or some type of escape from reality, it’s just in their nature to do that.

Instead of seeking to punish, the women should be given counseling, treatment, and loving care from people who understand what they are going through. Sure, it’s a lot more responsibility for society to take that road than simply punishing a woman. In the long run, I think the program would pay for itself by improving society.

—Will

A third student who wishes to remain anonymous and did not give her permission to publish her comments replied to Kellie.

She recognized the amount of thought Kellie put into her statement and wondered how Kellie felt about a law permitting the legal sterilization of women who gave birth to babies addicted to any drugs. It seems like a viable option to the student. She also felt that difficulty in enforcing a law does not eliminate the need for passing an important law. According to her, police wear radios so they can respond to urgent matters. She commented about how the sister of Gayle (another student in our class) had brought about the death of two of her children and then died from a heroin overdose while pregnant. The anonymous student felt that we should track down drug addicts (including those addicted to alcohol, nicotine, or illegal substances) and enforce mandatory reversible birth control, such as IUDs. This issue is no less important to her than child abuse, for which there is mandatory jail time. As the elephant, Horton, says in the Dr. Seuss book, “A person is a person, no matter how small.” Other than simply raising awareness, the student feels that there must be a way to improve the situation and get help for those who want it and punish those who don’t.

Kellie Burns replied to her on May 9, 2008 12:24 AM (CC-BY-SA-3.0-US Licensed; read more info):

Thanks for your reply. I think an IUD may be a good idea for addicts that are readily available to the system and who are willing. I don’t think that we should hunt them all down just to inject them.

I didn’t get a chance to read Gayle’s post. My sister is a recovering meth addict. She was the absolute lowest of low. She dropped off both of her children on a doorstep and took off for more high times. There isn’t a law or police officer that could have stopped her. She was sent to an intense rehab women’s boot camp by a judge, and she came out even more of an addict than when she went in. She was an addict for approx. 5 years. (I’m very happy to say that now she is sober)

At the time of her addiction, she stole from family, including myself. She lost her children. She defaced her credibility and back ground for future opportunities, etc, etc. There isn’t a punishment or consequence that would have stopped her destructive behavior. She feels guilt every day for giving up her children. I believe that she ultimately is suffering the biggest punishment of all—living with the guilt of failing her children. I feel for the babies of these women who can’t and won’t stop using drugs during pregnancy. It is definitely a sad situation. I am still confident that punishment will NOT save the innocent children. I will only believe that punishment can have an affect if I were to see it happen. I need proof to believe in something. My experience in this situation leads me the other direction. I still appreciate your thoughts. You made a good point about the police radios. I was being over-dramatic in my scenario. 🙂

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Drugs and Pregnancy? | Mothers (should) know best

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