Should Mothers Be Charged with Child Abuse for Using Drugs While Pregnant?

The issue of drug and alcohol abuse by pregnant mothers continues to stoke a lot of debate in legal and health circles. The sensitivity of the issue is understandable, especially when it comes to determining whether such mothers need to be punished or treated for their addiction disease. The issue of addiction among pregnant mothers and those with newborn babies has not received the needed attention and hence society is now faced with a new challenge with no easy answers.

The Danger in Lack of MATID Policy

The conundrum for social workers, policy makers, family members and the society in general is whether a mother who engages in substance abuse should be viewed as a criminal or should instead be viewed as a sick person in urgent need of professional treatment. The wide ranging responses to an issue that is prevalent in modern society betrays the lack of a uniform policy.  

This leaves mothers in Maternal Alcohol, Tobacco and Illegal Drugs (MATID) conditions without anywhere to seek help. A report published in the Journal of Perinatology shows that 6 out of every 1,000 babies suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is a condition caused by their mothers’ use of drugs during pregnancy. This highlights the gravity of the issue, especially without any policy to guide treatment of mothers in this situation.

Diverse Legislative Efforts

Different states have attempted to bring the issue up for public debate. In Louisiana, for instance, a proposed legislation that called for prosecution of women whose drug use during pregnancy killed or harmed their babies was pulled. The year was 2015 but the reception of the proposed law clearly showed that the public and other lawmakers were not for the prosecution of mothers who used drugs during pregnancy.

The argument in Louisiana was that the proposed bill would break apart families instead of saving them. Instead, more attention was needed to give the mothers who were addicted to drugs the treatment they so much needed to get off the habit and raise a healthy family.

In Arizona and many other states in the U.S, the law does not charge mothers with child abuse due to drug use during pregnancy. In these states, there are no laws criminalizing a mother’s drug use during pregnancy. The argument is that removing a newborn baby from their mother who will probably remain in jail will do more harm than good. In most cases, pregnant mothers who are abusing drugs will seek abortion to avoid going to jail which will not have resolved the issue.

Most pregnant mothers do not know their rights and they feel intimidated any time they face these difficult situations. This is where support organizations such as come into the equation. If you are a pregnant mother struggling with addition and other issues, you now have a place to turn to.

In case you are facing any legal problems related to drugs during your pregnancy, it is important to seek the assistance of an attorney and the best place to start is from an organization that is fully focused on helping mothers in your situation.

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