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Drug use during pregnancy: Abuse of Drugs During Pregnancy

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

The anonymous student who started this thread asked to not have her words reprinted here. She was the only person who chose to support her arguments using quotes from the Bible, specifically 1 Corinthians 10:23 and Exodus 21:22-25.

I replied on May 8, 2008 2:07 AM:

Hi. It was interesting to find someone using Biblical passages to justify a position. This is not unusual, of course, since people have done that throughout history. It is a little surprising to see it in a class discussion, though.

I am a Christian, and I absolutely do not mean any disrespect to you or your own religious views by entering into a discussion with you on this topic. I both agree with and disagree with some of the conclusions you drew from the particular passages you quoted.

Exodus 21 does not fit in very nicely with our modern sensibilities concerning matters of law and justice. For example, Exodus 21:5-6 states that if a servant was given a wife by his master, and children, when his seven-year period of servitude was over, he could either leave his wife and family and go free himself, or, if he loved them so much that he’d rather stay in lifelong servitude with them, that could be arranged, too. Of course, he would need to have his ear bored through to the doorpost as a sign of his decision to remain and serve his master until the fellow eventually dies. (BBE) (Henry)

Ignoring the fact that lifelong compulsory servitude (i.e., slavery) was acceptable at the time, I still don’t see how this is applicable in today’s society. Most Americans would agree that slavery is wrong (excuse me, compulsory lifelong servitude indicated by driving a spike through the ear). Throughout the Old Testament, slavery and servitude are accepted norms for that highly misogynistic society. Obviously those attitudes persisted well into the history of our own country. We had a civil war over that very matter. Both the North and the South quoted the Bible to support extremely different views on the topic. In the end, our nation decided that certain parts of the Bible were wrong, and it was time for slavery to end.

Now let’s look at the whole of the passage you quoted in context:

Exo. 21:22: If men, while fighting, do damage to a woman with child, causing the loss of the child, but no other evil comes to her, the man will have to make payment up to the amount fixed by her husband, in agreement with the decision of the judges.

Exo. 21:23: But if damage comes to her, let life be given in payment for life,

Exo. 21:24: Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Exo. 21:25: Burning for burning, wound for wound, blow for blow.

Bible in Basic English

It probably surprises many that the old “eye for an eye” saying relates to a man harming a pregnant woman during a fight. (It did me.) That line has been used for ages as the solution to any number of wrongs in this world. I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t always make sense to follow that advice. “You raped my daughter, so I’m going to rape yours.” “We bombed Japan, so now they should come and bomb us.” “We invaded Iraq to remove a terrorist leader, so now Russia should come to the US and remove a terrorist leader.” “The mother poisoned her unborn child with nasty drugs, so we should poison her to make up for it.” “An eye for an eye.” Fortunately, the US justice system has progressed a little beyond that mind set. Once again, a literal translation of this part of the Bible encourages us to go beyond the standards we hold dear in our modern society. While we do expect there to be consequences for wrongful acts, “eye for an eye” is often too extreme. Many times the actual punishment turns out to be something much different, and hopefully much more civilized, than the original action.

Your point about how a woman entrusted with nurturing and protecting an unborn child yet willfully endangers or harms that child is a good one. Obviously that is ethically, morally, and (as clearly shown above) religiously a very serious matter and a very bad thing for a mother to do.

Moving on to your New Testament verse, you omitted two related verse that are good, too:

1 Cor. 10:15: What I am saying is for wise men, do you be the judges of it.

: : :

1 Cor. 10:23: We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good.

1 Cor. 10:24: Let a man give attention not only to what is good for himself, but equally to his neighbour’s good.

Bible in Basic English

St. Paul, in verse 10, tells the Christians in Corinth that the following advice is stuff that a wise person should follow. The opposite of that should be obvious: Only a fool would ignore this good advice.

When a person acts in a manner that only benefits him or herself, ignoring the common good, that person is acting the part of a fool. The person is not (usually) acting with criminal intent, but rather foolish self-interest. That is not good for society. In the case of a baby born with an addiction, it costs insurance or the government a considerable amount of money to care for a baby that probably could have been born normally if drugs were not involved. If the baby is born with a more serious condition, that is even more money taken out of the pockets of other people. It’s not thievery exactly, but it certainly isn’t acting in the interest of common good.

Remember also what Jesus said in Luke:

Luke 6:35 No! Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God. For he is good to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Luke 6:36 Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you.

Luke 6:38 Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.”

Good News Bible

As a Christian, it is easy to act like Don Quixote and search for windmills to tip. That is, we see an issue where something is not being done in the interest of the common good, so we remember lines from Exodus and seek to fix the problem with an “eye for an eye”.

Instead, we should remember that people are all imperfect and sinners in one way or another. Instead of looking for punishment, we should be offering love, mercy, and forgiveness.

We do that by providing hope to women in trouble. Instead of threatening them with punishment, we offer them immediate help through the rough spots they are in and then viable long term solutions to make a better life for them and for their children. Turning women’s lives around, giving them opportunities, helping them out of the darkness… those sound like excellent ways to help the common good.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this.



  • BBE: Bible in Basic English.
  • GNB: Good News Bible.
  • Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.

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

She agreed completely with my argument, which she thought was well supported. She has faith in God, and means no disrespect when disagreeing with others over religious matters. Quoting Gandhi as saying “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, leaves everyone blind and toothless”, she stated that such a way was not a fair way of looking at punishment. A woman should be punished, but poisoning her as she did her child is not the answer. Heavy counseling and rehabilitation were her suggestions for a better way to deal with the problem. She does not feel that removing the baby from its mother, especially given the current state of the foster care system, is good for anyone. Alternatives need to focus on minimal impact to the child and society.


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Why punishing mothers who use drugs does not work | Conclusions

For proper attribution, please use a form similar to this:
Murray, Will (or another student’s name). “Drug use during pregnancy: Abuse of Drugs During Pregnancy”. Furth and Fortune blog by Will Murray. May 10, 2008. Retrieved .

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