03 May Will pregnant drug users soon be indicted for child abuse?
In a perfect world, nobody would abuse drugs because substance abuse harms your body, but in a world full of pain, grief, and hardship, people turn to drug and alcohol abuse because they’re trying to escape the pain inside and sometimes they feel like nothing else can take it away. No woman in her right mind would abuse drugs while carrying an unborn child, yet the nature of addiction is such that you can’t stop even if you wanted to. What does this mean for babies who did not ask to be born into this world, much less be born with defects that could have easily been prevented? Should this be constituted as child abuse? The Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Moulton seems to think so, according to a news source. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter quoted the judge: “…a mother’s substance abuse while pregnant may constitute child abuse if child welfare authorities can prove she intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused…bodily injury to a child after birth.” According to the US News & World Report a few days ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has yet to decide whether a woman’s use of illicit drugs during pregnancy will qualify as child abuse.
Will attorneys be successful in judging a mother’s motives for drug use?
Any addiction professional will tell you that when clients come in for substance abuse treatment, they will be diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder associated with a substance use disorder. Individuals are never diagnosed with just a substance use disorder alone. Co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, paranoia, and bipolar disorder are considered mental illness, and these are the impetus behind use, abuse, and dependence on alcohol and other drugs. To claim that a mother intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to her unborn child is to discount the nature of substance abuse addiction, and such an argument would quickly lose ground in the courts.
Criminalization would only increase public health harm, not decrease it
One rationale behind legalizing cannabis this year in California was that incarceration of marijuana users would be a waste of taxpayers’ dollars because it does not really decrease the usage of weed. How is this any different from criminalizing mothers who are addicted to substance abuse? If they could control it, they would not use. As some lawyers put it, “[W]omen with a substance abuse disorder during pregnancy need treatment…and the threat of being punished by the state will drive women away from treatment, thus risking their own and their child’s health.”
What we need is dual diagnosis treatment, not another form of punishment
We need to see that substance abuse is a symptom of a deeper problem, and dual diagnosis treatment gets to the root of the problem by addressing the emotional and psychological factors that affect people’s decisions about their lifestyles. New Method Wellness, one of the nation’s best centers for alcohol and drug rehabilitation, integrates evidence-based practices with holistic therapy to heal the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and helps thousands of individuals recover from addiction and successfully rebuild their lives. Among many of New Method Wellness’s treatment programs, gender-specific therapy is available for women and is offered at various levels, from Intensive Outpatient (IOP) to Residential Treatment.
If you or a loved one needs help to overcome addiction, call 866.951.1824 today!
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