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NCJ Number: 170660 Find in a Library
Title: Pregnancy Police Fight the War on Drugs (From Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice, P 249-259, 1997, Craig Reinarman and Harry G Levine, eds. - See NCJ-170648)
Author(s): L Siegel
Date Published: 1997
Page Count: 11
Sponsoring Agency: University of California Press
Berkeley, CA 94720
Sale Source: University of California Press
2120 Berkely Way
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States of America
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The author believes the criminalization of poor women for ingesting drugs during pregnancy will be remembered as one of the most misguided and constitutionally questionable tactics employed by government as part of the war on drugs.
Abstract: During the late 1980s when the specter of crack babies haunted political rhetoric, more than 200 criminal prosecutions were initiated against women in almost 20 States. Overzealous prosecutors came up with various pseudolegal theories on which to base their cases. Less dramatic than criminal prosecutions but far more prevalent are civil proceedings against new mothers who use drugs. Hundreds of women have lost custody of their newborns based on a single positive drug test at birth. Although illicit drug use crosses all income levels and races, black women and poor women have been disproportionately targeted for prosecution. Racial and class biases in prosecutions can be attributed to two factors: (1) public clinics and hospitals primarily serving low- income minority women comply with reporting regulations to a far greater extent than private hospitals and doctors serving middle and upper classes; and (2) doctors are influenced by a drug user profile based on racial stereotypes and are therefore much more likely to test the urine of poor black women than of middle class white women. Adequate prenatal care and drug treatment are often not available to poor pregnant women, and the practice of prosecuting women for using drugs during pregnancy raises a host of significant legal and ethical issues. It is becoming increasingly clear that crack babies are actually poverty babies; homelessness, despair, lack of medical care, poor nutrition, abusive childhoods, and abusive relationships are poverty-related factors that threaten the future of babies born to crack-using mothers. 33 notes
Main Term(s): Drug abuse
Index Term(s): Black/African Americans; Children of drug abusers; Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Crack; Drug law enforcement; Drug regulation; Drug treatment; Drug use; Female offenders; Poverty and crime; Pregnant drug abusers; Prosecution; Racial discrimination; Sex discrimination; Social classes; Social conditions; Urinalysis
Note: DCC
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