Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, Continuing Pregnancy Can Be A Crime For Users Of Illegal Drugs

Tennessee is going to make pregnancy into a potential criminal offense for women who are using illegal drugs:

The state legislature has passed a bill that would allow police to investigate drug-taking mothers if their unborn children are harmed by their addiction.
Tennessee may become the first state with a law that could criminally prosecute pregnant women if they harm their unborn children by taking illegal drugs. Miscarriages, stillbirths, and infants born with birth defects would be grounds for police investigation and charges that could put the mother behind bars for up to 15 years.
Last week, the proposed legislation to allow for criminal assault charges to be brought against drug-addicted pregnant women overwhelmingly passed the Tennessee Senate with bipartisan support after already sailing through the House. The bill states that “nothing shall preclude prosecution of a woman for an assaultive offense for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.”
Now think about that for a while.  What's the best thing* for a women addicted to illegal drugs to do should she get pregnant, if she wants to avoid the chance of such investigations?

Yup, you got it.  She should get an abortion.  But because all this comes from the same ideological roots as the desire to ban all abortions, the forced-birthers have turned themselves into pretzels:**

Weaver and the bill’s other supporters feel that the Safe Harbor Act did not go far enough in reducing rates of babies born with NAS or punishing pregnant drug abusers. “Here’s the double standard. If I hit a lady who’s pregnant and they’re both [mother and fetus] killed, that’s two counts of homicide. But a woman who is pregnant can stab herself in the stomach and hurt her baby and not be charged with anything,” says Weaver. “It [the Safe Harbor Act] made a woman who was pregnant above the law.”
Those "two counts of homicide" are because people who have Weaver's opinions supported laws which define the death of a fetus as a homicide.  So Weaver is arguing against herself, in a fashion.

All these initiatives come from the desire to define personhood as beginning from conception (as long as it's not in a test tube but in a uterus).  That defining personhood this way reduces the personhood of the person whose uterus it is doesn't matter.  Women addicted to illegal drugs are seen as criminals, women injecting themselves in their own stomachs are viewed as potential killers of the real person inside them, and women giving birth to a child with birth defects could then be put behind bars for up to fifteen years, even if the birth defects had nothing to do with any drug use, and even if imprisoning the mother that way could be in the worst interest of the child.
*Those who participate in drug treatment programs will not be charged, according to the bill.  But such treatments may not be available for all affected women, especially those in rural areas.
**NAS stands for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. As far as I can tell, its effects are temporary and treatable.