Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pregnant With Contradictions

July Swim for Distance Progress Report:  11,200 meters (about 6 1/4 miles)
Charities Benefiting: Mercy for Animals, Goods 4 Girls Africa, Survivors of Torture International
It's not too late! Pick a charity of your choice and sponsor me by the kilometer, the meter or the mile. Put aside your chosen denomination of currency and send it to your charity at the end of the month. Oh, and let me know which charity you picked so I can list it here. You'll feel better, I'll feel better, your charity of choice will feel better. Win-win-win!

Hi, I'm Jen and I'm addicted to sugar.  (Chorus: "Hi, Jen."  Jen: "Hi.")  I'll bet some of you didn't know it was possible to be addicted to sugar, seeing as most of us ingest it in fairly large quantities every day and no harm seems to come to us.  But it is.  Check out this "60 Minutes" video or these news stories: New York Daily News, CBS News, National Institutes of Health. That said, though, you all know how addiction works, right?  You take a substance, maybe even only once, and you then discover to your dismay and chagrin that you now can't get along without that substance.  Something in your brain has fundamentally changed and without the substance, you not only can't function, you might get very sick and even possibly die.

This is why people who are addicted to substances will do ridiculous, illegal and even crazy things to get hold of the next dose of whatever it is they're addicted to.  Why they'll keep on taking a substance even though it's obviously causing problems in their lives, like causing them to lose their jobs or breaking up their marriages.  That guy who broke into your car and stole your stereo was probably addicted to something or other (car stereos have a very low resale rate, I'm given to understand, so it was probably something cheap, like crack).  And pregnant women, even if they know or suspect that whatever they're taking may be bad for the baby, will keep right on taking it.

Actually, in the case of pregnant women, it's even trickier.  Suddenly withdrawing from an addictive substance, like heroin or cocaine, can cause a miscarriage.  If you're pregnant and addicted to a substance, it's much better for you and your baby if you take maintenance doses of the substance.  Makes sense, right? Keep the mother stable, keep the baby stable, especially since addiction to opioids (ie, heroin, oxycontin, vicodin; the class of substances most commonly abused by pregnant women) hasn't been proven to cause any damage to the baby (or at least, the link between opioids and birth defects is "not well understood".)

You probably know where I'm heading with this.  Yep, the good ole state of Tennessee, which recently made it a crime to be a pregnant woman with a substance abuse problem.  In Tennessee,   prosecutors can now charge a woman with an "assaultive offense or homicide" if she takes illegal narcotics during her pregnancy, if "the child is born addicted, is harmed, or dies because of the drug." You'll note there's no standard of proof in there.  The state doesn't have to prove that the drug caused any kind of problem; it's basically a "because we said so" provision.  Lucky Mallory Loyola is the first woman to be arrested under the new law.  I think you should get some kind of prize if you're the first one to be arrested under a law.  Like, maybe free legal counsel, or something.

Now, let's ponder this.  There are 168 drug treatment centers in Tennessee (I looked it up).  Guess how many take pregnant women?  21. So less than 13% of drug treatment placements are available for pregnant women.  All the same, it's fine to toss them in jail if the state thinks the drugs might have harmed their newborns.  And what happens to the newborn while all this is going on? They're not staying with their mothers in jail; there's no nationwide policy in the United States that allows women to stay with their newborns if they're in prison, and Tennessee isn't one of the states running a pilot program that would let that happen.  So I guess the kid goes to foster care, or maybe to family members if DCS is feeling generous.

By the way, it's not illegal to smoke while pregnant.  It's not illegal to drink while pregnant. Both of those activities have been proven to cause actual harm to babies.  It's also not illegal to go skiing while pregnant, and while there aren't a lot of ski resorts in Tennessee, surprisingly there are a few, and you'd think they'd have at least thought about that while they were making it illegal to have a verified medical condition that most people can't do anything about without help (and see above re: how much help is available, ie, close to none.)

The ACLU is already challenging this law in court, and they have some pretty good precedent; no less than the Supreme Court of the United States told the state of California, way back in 1962, that it wasn't a crime to be a drug addict. And I'm gonna steal this whole paragraph from  "The prosecution of a pregnant drug-addicted woman infringes upon a woman’s right to privacy, as established in Roe v. Wade. In Roe, the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy, 'whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action ... or ... in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.' Advocates of the right to privacy contend that a woman does not lose her right to privacy simply because she becomes pregnant, and the constitutional right to privacy 'extends to both women and men, regardless of their biological differences.' Advocates therefore contend that because the Constitution does not differentiate among persons who are able to enjoy the right to privacy, the pregnant woman remains a 'person' as defined and protected under the Constitution. Hence, the State’s mechanisms — prosecution by child abuse, endangerment, controlled substance abuse, manslaughter, and homicide statutes — infringe upon a drug-addicted woman’s fundamental right to privacy because these mechanisms punish her simply for exercising her constitutional right to procreate."

You also can't treat pregnant women differently than nonpregnant women, or differently from men, under the law.  That pesky 14th Amendment. Astonishing as it may seem, pregnant women are human beings, and therefore persons.  If you don't believe that's so, ponder this: At what point in a pregnancy does a pregnant woman lose her civil rights?

Further, it's illegal to leak somebody's medical records under HIPPA.  So how did this woman get arrested in the first place?  If I were her lawyer, I'd look into whether any cause existed to arrest her at all, being as the evidence was obtained illegally.  Good thing I'm not a lawyer, though, because I'd take all the cases like this, never get paid, get burned out, quit on the whole human race and drive my Lincoln into the San Diego Bay from the top of the Bay Bridge, if I still lived in San Diego, which I do not.

I think I said that in another blog post. Well, so sue me.

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