Guess who’s not coming home to dinner

Posted: 10/02/2015 in Screwed
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In their never-ending effort to protect the fetus (until such time as it stops being a fetus, and then it’s on its own), Republicans have discovered they’re not limited to punishing poor women of color, now they can get any woman, no matter what their color or social status. In that vein, Mother Jones has published a little story about how the war on drugs has come home to suburbia.  Their example story starts when Casey Shehi, in the last stages of pregnancy and feeling about as miserable as you can feel in that state, borrowed and took half a Valium from her boyfriend to try and get through the sweltering Alabama night in her trailer house.  Later they vacationed in Florida, where she finally took the other half.  Still later, when the baby was born, a standard blood screen showed that Shehi, not the baby, still had traces of that Valium in her system.  Although the hospital made no big deal out of it after hearing Shehi’s explanation, police showed up where she was working a few weeks later, cuffed her, and took her to jail.

Shehi had run afoul of Alabama’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute, the country’s toughest criminal law on prenatal drug use. Passed in 2006 as methamphetamine ravaged Alabama communities, the law targeted parents who turned their kitchens and garages into home-based drug labs, putting their children at peril.

Within months, prosecutors and courts began applying the law to women who exposed their embryo or fetus to controlled substances in utero. A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm. The penalties are exceptionally stiff: 1 to 10 years in prison if her baby suffers no ill effects, 10 to 20 years if her baby shows signs of exposure or harm, and 10 to 99 years if her baby dies.

So a basic idea of protecting babies from drug addicts has grown up and gotten completely out of control — as bureaucracy always does.  The war on women has met the war on drugs, and women are doubly screwed.


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