Today, in the United States, there are many issues with laws that people disagree with; a major one being the criminal prosecution of pregnant women who abuse drugs and alcohol. State laws are now considerably different in their approach to resolve this problem due to the social outlook on the the issue.(Dailard) The controversy is determining the balence between womens' rights to their body's integrity and society's interest in healthy pregnancies. There is no criminal law against drug abuse during pregnancy. Prosecutors attempt to use criminal laws against pre-natal substance abuse already in effect such as possesion of a controlled substance, delivering drugs to a minor (through the umbilical cord), and neglect.(Dailard) Women appeal these convictions which typically end up overturned on the grounds that a fetus could not be considered a child or person under criminal child abuse statutes. Because of this, the controversy grows and it becomes more difficult to criminally prosecute these women.
On October 4, 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Ferguson v. City of Charleston.(Harris) This case was brought to the Supreme Court by 10 women who were tested for cocaine use without their consent while recieving prenatal care at a South Carolina public hospital. Women who tested positive were turned into the local police and arrested for crminal child abuse. The Court has to decide whether or not drug testing pregnant women without a warrent or consent and reoprting them violates their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches.(Harris) The Fourth Amendment is the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.(The Constitution) To get these women convicted...
Bibliography: Harris MD, Lisa H.. "The Status of Pregnant Women and Fetuses in US Criminal Law, April 2, 2003, Harris and Paltrow 289 (13): 1697 — JAMA ." JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal published by AMA — JAMA . http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/289/13/1697.full (accessed February 18, 2011).
Dailard, Cynthia, and Elizabeth Nash. "State Responses to Substance Abuse Among Pregnant Women." Guttmacher Institute: Home Page. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/03/6/gr030603.html (accessed February 18, 2011).
"The Constitution of the United States of America." GPO Access Home Page. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/html/amdt4.html (accessed February 18, 2011).
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