Doctors in California are calling for an end to state laws that criminalize the use of drugs during pregnancy. This is in response to findings by medical experts that the existing laws are outdated and unduly strict. While the use of drugs during pregnancy remains a controversial subject, many are searching for less drastic solutions.
Drug use as child abuse
Drug charges in California, especially for pregnant women, can be harsh. This is in large part due to the climate created by the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974. One of the most controversial provisions of CAPTA that equates the use of drugs by pregnant women to child abuse.
At the time, many doctors believed that drug use by women while pregnant could result in babies who were born with an addiction. This would certainly constitute an abusive situation in the eyes of most legal authorities. However, it is also true that many women use prescribed medications during pregnancy.
Some of these medications can sometimes show up in drug tests with adverse effects for the mothers. They may find themselves facing drug charges and the possible loss of custody of their child. This is a situation that many women can find themselves in, especially those who can’t afford to pay for expert legal counsel.
Protecting patient rights
The recent call for changes to drug laws in California are designed to give a broader scope to the rights of women who are dealing with a disorder of this type. They are intended to move the application of law in a direction that is more positive and corrective rather than purely punitive.
Part of the initiative on the part of these doctors includes finding more help for women in these situations. Treatment programs and facilities for pregnant women with drug and alcohol issues remain rare. As a result, they can all too often fall between the cracks of a system that many find too impulsively judgmental.