Prosecution of Pregnant Drug Abusers
Drug abuse is an epidemic in our country. While substance abuse is commonly thought to be a plague of the poor, the fact is that it is widespread and has no demographic preference. It can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, race and economic status. A group of illicit drug abusers that may be largely overlooked are pregnant women. This group of people not only harms themselves, but also their unborn children. A woman must be held accountable for the health of her unborn baby in terms of drug and alcohol abuse. Prosecuting women who use drugs while pregnant is a way to make these women more aware of their actions as well as becoming a way of motivating them to seek treatment. Increasing numbers of women are abusing drugs during pregnancy and thus endangering the well being and lives of their children as well as themselves. The spreading abuse of phencyclidine (PCP), cocaine, and cocaine's potent form "crack", added to the more well known addictive narcotics such as heroin, has intensified concerns about the implications of maternal drug use for unborn children (www.medceu.com). More than 5 percent of the 4 million women who gave birth in the United States in 1992 used illegal drugs while they were pregnant, according to the first nationally representative survey of drug use among pregnant women (www.nida.nih.gov).
The survey gathered self-report data from a national sample of 2,613 women who delivered babies in 52 urban and rural hospitals during 1992. Based on these data, an estimated 221,000 women who gave birth in 1992 used illicit drugs while they were pregnant. Marijuana and cocaine were the most frequently used illicit drugs--2.9 percent, or 119,000 women, used marijuana and another 1.1 percent, or 45,000 women, used cocaine at some time during their pregnancy (www.nida.nih.gov). The chart below depicts results from this survey, divided into ethnic groups....
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