Should a pregnant woman be punished for exposing her fetus to risk? The question about whether pregnant women are liable for subjecting their unborn children to risk has yet to be properly addressed. One state South Carolina has been on the forefront of this issue. The Supreme Court in South Carolina in 1997 in the case Whitner vs. South Carolina decided that pregnant women who exposed their viable fetuses may be persecuted under the state child abuse laws. This action was specifically targeting women who use illegal drugs during pregnancy. Since this decision, other states like Arizona and Florida are following suit. In South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina Hospital routinely tested the urine of pregnant women for drugs without their consent. This has been a contentious issue as opponents complain that the privacy of women is violated. The very act of randomly checking the urine of pregnant women without their consent violates the constitutional right to privacy of these women. Opponents of the decision to persecute pregnant women who exposes their fetuses to risk outlined several issues with this decision. Firstly, they believe that there is a number of ethical problems with prosecuting these women. According to them, this can have the opposite effect intended. These women because of their drugs and alcohol issues will avoid doctors out of fear of jail and both they and their babies will be in greater danger from a wide range of medical problems. Secondly, there is a problem with the prospect of these women losing the ability to trust their healthcare providers as doctors are forced to move from treatment to punishment as a solution to addiction. Thirdly, it is believed that because these women are persecuted, some addicts might seek late-term abortions rather than deliver a baby with signs of drug abuse. One question that has not been answered is whether women subjecting their children to increased risk of multiple births as a...
References: Abuse Laws Cover Fetus, a High Court Rules--Tamar Lewin. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.uiowa.edu/~030116/116/articles/lewin.htm
Abuse: What Legal Status Should ... (n.d.). Retrieved from http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/phil/blphil_ethbio_fetalabuse.htm
Levine, C., (2010). Clashing views on Bioethical Issues. 13e. McGraw Hill Bioethics - Drug Use & Fetal Should Pregnant Women Be Punished for Exposing Fetuses to ... (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/78359/should_pregnant_women_be_punished_for.html
Whitner v. South Carolina Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/facts/whitner.htm
Prosecutors Focusing on Pregnant Women. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.jointogether.org/news/headlines/inthenews/2003/prosecutors-focusing-on-women.html
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