Prenatal Exposure to Illegal Drugs and Alcohol: Media Hype and Enduring Myths Are Not Supported By Science
Based on the extraordinary misinformation that appeared frequently in the popular press, many people believe that a pregnant woman who uses any amount of an illegal drug or alcohol will inevitably harm or even kill her fetus. But media hype is not the same as science. As explained by Dr. Deborah Frank in this on-line video, Prenatal Drug Exposure: Award-Winning Pediatrician Discusses What The Science Tells Us,[i] popular news reports have misrepresented the scientific facts about prenatal exposure to drugs.
Utah Representative Carl Wimmer has proposed a bill, H.B. 12, which purports to make it a crime for a woman to solicit a non-physician abortion or to perform an abortion on herself, at all stages of pregnancy. It permits certain abortions if performed by physicians. What the sponsor claims to want to accomplish with this legislation is to ensure that self-abortions may be punished as murder or attempted murder. The bill, however, is written in such a way as to affect all pregnant women including those who have no intention of ending a pregnancy. This bill, if enacted, would apply to any and all pregnancy losses even at the earliest stages of pregnancy and to all actions, inactions, conditions and circumstances that may be characterized or perceived as a threat to the life of an unborn child—regardless of the woman’s intent.
The significant and well-documented public misunderstanding, stigma, and cultural myth
surrounding drug use and addiction, particularly in the context of pregnancy and
parenting, strongly suggests the need for expert testimony to clarify these issues to the
court and to ensure diligent representation and zealous advocacy on behalf of the parties
This legal memo establishes the rules of evidence which should be used in court and provides resources and arguments to insist that real science is presented in court.
The following is the policy and consent form developed and approved by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation to be used at all HHC facilities. The policy briefly outlines the risks, benefits and alternatives for testing prenatal and intrapartal patients and it addresses questions and concerns that have arisen regarding this issue.
Despite the many issues affecting women's health and lives, bills to further restrict abortion are likely to be the primary focus of your legislature's session this year. As a result of this extensive attention to this one aspect of pregnant women's lives, chances are that your state legislature will not address many other health issues of concern to pregnant women and mothers — not breast cancer nor heart disease, not the lack of health insurance for millions of women and children nor the lack of access to mother-friendly childbirth. Here are some suggestions for action you and your state can take to ensure that policies to advance a culture of life, values the women who give that life:
Laws that make it a crime to be pregnant and addicted undermine women's and children's health and seriously threaten women's reproductive rights. Moreover, they are based on a number of unsubstantiated and costly myths.
Download Microsoft Word file
Compiled by Drug Policy Alliance. Sept 27, 2000.