First we feared “crack babies,” now “meth babies,” but it turns out that fetuses exposed to narcotic drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine in utero don’t develop much differently than those who aren’t exposed. That was the main message of a public forum held last month titled, “Women, Pregnancy and Drug Use: Medical Facts, Practical Responses and the Well-Being of Children and Families.” One of the panelists, Dr. Barry Lester, Director of the Brown University Center for the Study of Children at Risk, presented research debunking the myth (click here to access the full Powerpoint presentation.) The research evidence notwithstanding, women across the country have been charged with child abuse and even murder for being addicted while pregnant. Instead of treatment, they get jail time (and the prospect of criminal charges hardly encourages an addict to seek treatment).
The forum was held in Oklahoma City, where Theresa Hernandez has been imprisoned for four years, facing charges of first-degree murder, with the possibility of life imprisonment, for suffering a stillbirth. Hernandez was charged for using methamphetamine while pregnant, though there is no evidence tying the substance to stillbirth. The National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which cosponsored the Oklahoma City forum, is working to help women like Hernandez. “There is no justice when a woman does time for a non-existent crime,” writes NAPW director Lynn Paltrow. “But NAPW will keep doing everything possible to help Ms. Hernandez and prevent future similar prosecutions.”
For more about Ms. Hernandez, read this. Feeling generous this holiday season? Make a donation to NAPW.