Drinking While Pregnant: Crime-Worthy?

drinking while pregnantThe dangers of drinking while pregnant have been established some time ago. Now, a new movement in the UK is seeking to prosecute expectant mothers who drink alcohol excessively.

The reasoning goes that the children of these mothers can develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which can be characterized by deformity, brain damage, behavioral or mental disorders, higher rates of alcoholism and addiction, and other symptoms. With established knowledge that such consequences exist, the activists argue that continuing to drink excessively are actively participating in a crime against a victim—their own child.

The knee-jerk reaction might be to think this is a good idea. After all, it is for the children and their well-being, so it must be good, right?

Not really. First of all, the medical community recognizes alcoholism and addiction as a disease. By validating the advocates, alcoholism and addiction—legally speaking—become controllable, when the attitude overwhelmingly has been to provide treatment over punishment. That is a huge contradiction. It would suggest on one hand, the law says that a person can control their addiction and alcoholism, but if that is the case, then what is the purpose of giving them treatment? Sure, repeat drug offenders get sentenced to prison regularly, but in most states, that often occurs after repeated attempts to get the addict or alcoholic help and a genuine disinterest in stopping.

One could also argue that such behavior is negligence or endangerment, but that becomes very difficult (if not impossible) to prove when the child is not yet born.

All of this aside, though, there is the overwhelmingly difficult matter of how to prosecute these mothers. How would a law enforcement agency get evidence such as medical records proving that a child had FAS? The short answer is they can’t—at least not legally.

Further, there is the issue of proving that the child is actually a victim. That would require undeniable evidence that the child suffered. While that is not necessarily impossible, it is far more difficult than it sounds.

Then there is the slippery slope relating to known behavior of the mother and subsequent prosecution. For instance, does a poor diet qualify under the same circumstances? What about contracting HIV/AIDS? How about car accidents that damage the fetus? Each of these can have severe life-altering effects on a fetus, yet each would be nearly impossible to prosecute.

Then there are the gray areas. One such hypothetical could be that after giving birth to a baby with FAS, the mother finds recovery. Should she still go to prison? What about those who involuntarily produce alcohol naturally in their gut? Then there are the inevitable follow-ups as to whether or not a person should be allowed to have children in such circumstances. Just as inevitably, it would be followed up with accusations of eugenics and totalitarianism, and that frankly won’t fly in the US.

So, is it tragic? Absolutely. Should it happen? Of course it shouldn’t. Is it preventable? To some extent it is, but at what cost?

Drinking While Pregnant

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should drinking while pregnant be a crime? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

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