Prosecuting pregnant drug-addicted mothers

Good news out of New Mexico:

On May 11, the Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico turned back the state’s attempt to expand the criminal child abuse laws to apply to pregnant women and fetuses. In 2003, Ms. Cynthia Martinez was charged with felony child abuse “for permitting a child under 18 years of age to be placed in a situation that may endanger the child’s life or health. . .” In bringing this prosecution, the state argued that a pregnant woman who cannot overcome a drug addiction before she gives birth should be sent to jail as a felony child abuser.

I just wrote a big huge final paper on this topic, so I’ll offer some background. Basically, over the past 30 years pregnant women have been prosecuted in several states for using drugs while pregnant. They’re usually prosecuted under child abuse or drug trafficking statutes. These prosecutions have happened even when the child showed no signs of harm. Regina McKnight, a South Carolina woman, was recently convicted of homicide by child abuse after giving birth to a stillborn baby. Her conviction was upheld by the South Carolina State Supreme Court.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has come to the opposite conclusion in a similar case — that the state’s child abuse statutes cannot be used to prosecute drug-addicted mothers for their neo-natal drug use. This is good, as the South Carolina decision was pretty devastating. But the SC decision still stands in SC, and may be used to influence similar cases in other states; luckily, now the NM decision can be taken into account, too. There is still no national consensus on this issue, and women in various states continue to be prosecuted.

No one wants women to use drugs while they’re pregnant. Obviously we do want to protect fetuses from in utero drug exposure. But there are a lot of problems with these cases — equal protection issues, statutory interpretation issues, status crime issues, due process issues, and on and on. If you’re interested, short summaries of some of the many problems are below the fold:

1. Status issues: The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a person cannot be prosecuted for being a drug addict. Prosecuting someone for the illness of drug addiction, they said, is in violation of the 8th Amendment’s bar on cruel and unusual punishment. People can, obviously, still be prosecuted for the sale, possession and purchase of drugs.

Many of the cases involving pregnant drug-addicted women come to light when someone at the hospital reports that a woman appears to be a drug addict or tested positive for drugs; others occur after investigations into a stillbirth or a drug-addicted baby. It’s rare for a woman to be arrested for possession, sale or purchase and then be charged with child abuse. If I told my doctor that I used illegal drugs, I probably would not be reported to the police. I couldn’t be tried for anything, unless the police found drugs on me or had evidence of me buying, selling or otherwise distributing drugs. But if I were simultaneously drug-addicted and pregnant, I could be charged with child abuse.

Pregnancy, like drug addiction, is a status. It is not a crime. And yet prosecutors are arguing that it’s a crime for the two statuses to occur simultaneously. That’s incredibly problematic, even if the women aren’t technically being tried for their addiction.

2. Fetal Personhood — Child abuse and drug trafficking statutes refer to “persons.” For a mother to be tried for child abuse or drug distribution for her neo-natal drug use, the fetus must be considered a person under the law. This is problematic for all the obvious reasons. While establishing fetal personhood for the purpose of criminal prosecutions will not immediately wipe out abortion rights, it lays very strong legal groundwork for eliminating abortion rights in the future. It is very, very difficult to argue that the fetus is a “person” for the purposes of child abuse and drug distribution, but not a person when you’re ending its very existence. I do think that the argument can be made, but only if we radically re-shape the legal grounding for abortion rights, which isn’t going to happen anytime soon and which does not fit into the Roe framework. That is, we would have to assume that the fetus is a person with all the rights and protections that people in this country receive, and from there argue that a person does not have a legal right to use someone else’s body for his own existence, and if a person objects to having their body used, they have a right to remove the attached person. Call me crazy, but I don’t see that argument sitting particularly well with the Roberts court, or with the rest of the American public. So the establishment of fetal personhood is a very bad thing, because if Roe ever does fall, states have already set a legal standard for fetuses to be considered people under the law. It’s not much of a leap to argue that abortion should therefore be illegal.

3. Statutory Interpretation and Due Process: State child abuse and drug trafficking statutes refer to “persons,” as explained above. Prosecutors of drug-addicted mothers often argue that the fetus should be considered a person under the law — the fetus is the child being abused, or the minor who is given drugs. There’s a big question as to whether that’s a reasonable interpretation of the statute, and if pregnant women had fair notice that they were commiting a crime. Now, you don’t have to know something is a crime in order to be prosecuted for it, but there is the issue of whether or not a reasonable person would interpret the statute to include fetuses. I don’t think they would; luckily, several courts agree. Others, like South Carolina, don’t.

And just an interesting side fact — after the fetuses-are-people argument proved to be a losing one, some prosecutors took a more creative tack and argued that the drug distribution occured after birth, in the 90-second period when the baby was outside of the woman’s body but still attached through the umbilical cord. Since the child has been born, there is no question of personhood. There is, however, a big question as to the medical possibility of transmitting drugs through the umbilical cord during that tiny period, and various anatomical issues that strongly suggest it isn’t very likely. But the extent to which prosecutors are willing to go in order to criminalize drug-addicted women is pretty astounding.

4. Public Policy: This isn’t a legal issue, but many courts (including New Mexico’s) have taken it into account in their holdings. Prosecuting women for using drugs while pregnant is very bad public health policy. It discourages drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking treatment. It makes pregnant drug users less likely to get pre-natal care — and poor pre-natal care is strongly correlated with poor baby health, and can be worse for a pregnancy than drug use. And it can be a motivation for abortion of a wanted pregnancy — if you think you’re going to be criminally prosecuted when you give birth, it makes sense to avoid that birth. In other words, prosecuting pregnant women does nothing for children, and in fact puts serious barriers in the way to healthcare access.

5. Equal Protection: This argument would be fairly unlikely to succeed in court, but I think it’s worth making anyway — and I think it’s the most important one. Women of color are disproportionately targeted for these prosecutions. White women and black women use drugs during pregnancy at similar rates (by which I mean there’s only a 1 or 2 percent difference), but the vast majority of criminalized women are black and Hispanic — in one study, researchers found that 90 percent of the prosecuted women were non-white. Child abuse and drug trafficking statutes are facially neutral, but here they’re being applied incredibly disproportionately along racial lines.

And given the history of the devaluation of black motherhood, this is no surprise. Pandagon’s book club read this month is Killing the Black Body by Dorothy Roberts, which you should absolutely read if you’re interested in these issues. She has also written a great many law review articles where she makes similar arguments. One of her points is that black women’s status as mothers has long been attacked and denigrated. While middle-class white women have their rights to not give birth challenged, women of color face challenges in their right to have children in the first place. And these challenges are nothing new — going all the way back to slavery, black women were valued for their manual labor and for producing more workers, but were still considered sub-human. From a Harvard Law Review article by Roberts:

The method of whipping pregnant slaves that was used throughout the South vividly illustrates the slaveowners’ dual interest in Black women as both workers and childbearers. Slaveowners forced women to lie face down in a depression in the ground while they were whipped. This procedure allowed the masters to protect the fetus while abusing the mother. It serves as a powerful metaphor for the evils of a fetal protection policy that denies the humanity of the mother. It is also a forceful symbol of the convergent oppressions inflicted on slave women: they were subjugated at once both as Blacks and as females.

Challenges to reproductive freedom always center around the idea that the woman’s body is not her own, and that the state has a right to interfere with her reproduction. Women of color have faced coercive and involuntary sterilization, and continue to be used as political symbols of the failed family and deviant motherhood. Quoting myself is obnoxious, but I’m going to reproduce what I wrote in a paper about this instead of attempting to re-create it:

Sterilization has also had a devastating historical effect on women of color. Forced and coerced sterilizations have affected millions of American women, with some doctors in the 1970s making their assistance in abortion or childbirth dependent on Black women’s consent to sterilization. In Puerto Rico, American policy led to the sterilization of a full one-third of women of childbearing age by 1965. A 1974 case in Alabama revealed that federal funding underwrote the sterilization of 100,000 to 150,000 poor women every year, some of whom were told they would lose their welfare benefits if they refused to consent to the procedure. Although federal and state policy held that sterilization must be voluntary, women of color were continually encouraged to permanently terminate their ability to have children, with mainstream social policy arguments positing that these women were unable to rely on more temporary birth control methods.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, women of color were routinely involuntarily sterilized. According to Roberts:

“During the 1970s sterilization became the most rapidly growing form of birth control in the United States, rising from 200,000 cases in 1970 to over 700,000 in 1980. It was a common belief among Blacks in the south that Black women were routinely sterilized without their informed consent and for no valid medical reason . . . this sort of abuse was so widespread in the south that these operations came to be known as ‘Mississippi appendectomies.'”

The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, excludes abortion from the health services covered by federal Medicaid programs. Sterilization is still covered. Low-income women, then, often cannot afford to terminate unwanted pregnancies – pregnancies that they often can’t afford to have in the first place – but can permanently remove their ability to have children. These coercive social policies have contributed to higher rates of sterilization among women of color – and particularly poor women of color – than in their white counterparts.

All of this is propped up by racist constructions of black motherhood (and blackness and brownness in general). In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” which blamed the reversal of gender roles for the ills present in black communities. He wrote:

At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of the Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental cause of the weakness of the Negro community … In essence, the Negro community has been forced into a matriarchal structure which, because it is so out of line with the rest of the American society, seriously retards the progress of the group as a whole.

Reagan’s Welfare Queen continued this characterization, positioning the welfare recipient as a lazy, indulgent, unfit black mother having repeated pregnancies that were burdensome to society. The “crack baby” epidemic of the 1980s only intensified that stereotype — and in hindsight, there really wasn’t much of an epidemic, and many of the problems attributed to crack babies were actually caused by poor pre-natal care. And Moynihan’s report continues to resonate with social conservatives. In 2005 — yes, 2005 — Manhattan Institute Scholar Kay Hymowitz wrote this in the Dallas Morning News:

Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility and poverty in the recent New York Times series “Class Matters,” and you still won’t grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject:

1. Entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and

2. It is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.

By now, these facts shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. They are also more likely to pass that poverty on to their children. Single motherhood is a largely low-income and disproportionately black problem.

The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal – one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken and far too often African-American.

She approvingly cites the Moynihan report, calling it “prophetic.” Then she points to the real problem: Black women are having children without the proper male authority.

Liberal advocates had two main ways of dodging the subject of family collapse while still addressing its increasingly alarming fallout. The first was to talk about children not as the offspring of individual mothers and fathers responsible for rearing them, but as an oppressed class in need of government programs. The second way was to talk instead about the epidemic of teen pregnancy.

There was just one small problem: There was no epidemic of teen pregnancy. There was an out-of-wedlock teen-pregnancy epidemic. Teenagers had gotten pregnant at even higher rates in the past. Back in the day, however, when they found out they were pregnant, girls had either gotten married or given their babies up for adoption.

Not this generation. They were used to seeing children growing up without fathers, and they felt no shame about arriving at the maternity ward with no rings on their fingers, even at 15.

The hostility toward black motherhood has not decreased. The organization C.R.A.C.K. advertises in low-income neighborhoods, encouraging drug addicts to get sterilized in exchange for a couple hundred bucks. They offer no treatment or other resources — they simply pay women to be sterilized or go on long-term birth control. C.R.A.C.K.’s clientele is disproportionately non-white.

There is a long, long history of women of color having their reproductive rights attacked and their very personhood questioned. The prosecutions for neo-natal drug use fall into that pattern. They’re incredibly problematic. I’m glad to see that the New Mexican court made a fair and reasonable decision here.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Race & Ethnicity, Reproductive Rights and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Prosecuting pregnant drug-addicted mothers

  1. bridgetka says:

    Teenagers had gotten pregnant at even higher rates in the past. Back in the day, however, when they found out they were pregnant, girls had either gotten married or given their babies up for adoption.

    Not this generation. They were used to seeing children growing up without fathers, and they felt no shame about arriving at the maternity ward with no rings on their fingers, even at 15.

    Because eighth-graders getting shotgun weddings or having their babies pried out of their hands worked out so well in the past! Is this nut seriously suggesting that everything would be okay if fifteen year olds got married? And O, the shame of not having proper penile authority! WTF!?

  2. twf says:

    While argument 5 (equal protection) is certainly the most compelling, especially to the type of person likely to be reading Feministe, I think you’re right that it won’t be taken seriously by prosecutors and legislators.

    Argument 3 is the one that I really think has legs. Trafficking? Child abuse? Prosecutors are really stretching these definitions and the associated laws. What I do to my own body right now (I’m 12 weeks pregnant) does not fit into any of those laws.

    If the people and the legislature truly believe that drug use during pregnancy is wrong, and that the state has an interest in pregnant women’s drug use, they should be writing laws to that effect. There should be no need to stretch existing laws. And then, the legislators on the right side of the issue can at least include amendments funding drug treatment for any pregnant woman who requests it. And even demanding that the legislation recognize that the appropriate remedy is treatment, not incarceration. I think the majority of the electorate wants to see mothers treated, not punished. And most people who rail against pregnant drug users seem to be under the impression that anyone wanting treatment gets it, which is nowhere close to the case.

  3. MattC says:

    That was a very thorough and well-thought out discussion of the issue. I’ve been doing some reading recently on what types of treatments could be used as alternatives to punishment for women who are pregnant drug addicts. Iris Young wrote a fantastic piece on the subject, though her stance is informed more by political theory than by legal studies. It’s called “Punishment, Treatment, Empowerment: Three Approaches to Policy for Pregnant Addicts”. Though you may have already come across if it in your research.

  4. Wow, this was a very interesting and educational post (although every detail of your penultimate paragraph was pretty abhorrent). I don’t know much about the law, so I’m curious why the equal protection argument wouldnt’ work? Do you have to prove more than equal populations of criminals being disproportionately prosecuted? Is that more a problem with the enforcement than the law? Would the argument be considered too much about history and not enough about the details of the law? And if it’s not taken seriously in court, is it purely academic? My (perhaps incorrect) understanding is that equal protection is supposed to limit what legislatures and such can do, so applying that argument (#5) to new laws, while it may help, seems kind of unsatisfactory. Or am I failing to understand something?

  5. Equal protection has a poor track record in court. The laws aren’t written unequally, but they are enforced unequally, which is harder to really prove in court.

  6. Tony says:

    Oh absolutely, throw them in Jail.

    I disagree with the language of the statute though, I don’t think the fetus is a child under 18.

    Nevertheless, get pregnant and you do drugs while there is a fetus growing in you? Better stop or go to jail.

  7. What if they smoke? Or drink? Or have a cup of coffee? Or lift a heavy bag? Should it be jail then, or will throwing them in the stocks suffice?

  8. Will says:

    Tony, Jill’s fourth argument seems to be a compelling answer to “throw them in jail.” Even if doing drugs with a fetus growing in you is a terrible thing to do (and I agree that it is), it still helps neither the fetus nor the mother to prosecute her.

    So even though your “throw them in jail” is probably motivated by concern for the fetus, it seems misguided.

  9. Jill says:

    Jeff-

    The reason the Equal Protection arguments are less successful is because the Court has established particular rules for enforcing the EP doctrine. The basic idea is that in order for a law to violate the EP clause, it must be discriminatory in its intent — which sounds reasonable enough, but in practice it means that you basically have to prove that someone is out to get you based on your race. It’s almost an impossible standard to meet. Proving that a law is applied disproportionately is not sufficient to prove an EP violation.

  10. Jill says:

    Nevertheless, get pregnant and you do drugs while there is a fetus growing in you? Better stop or go to jail.

    But go to jail for what? That’s the issue. As I said in the post, no one thinks that pregnant women should be using drugs. But what exactly are we jailing them for? That has to be explained before we can just lock them up.

  11. Jill says:

    What if they smoke? Or drink? Or have a cup of coffee? Or lift a heavy bag? Should it be jail then, or will throwing them in the stocks suffice?

    …and you just reminded me of something I meant to include in the post and forgot. Damn. But the slippery slope argument is a big deal here — one legislator already tried to make it a crime for a woman to smoke in a car with children, or for a woman to smoke while pregnant. So the concern about criminalizing perfectly legal activities just because they are carried out by a pregnant person is a very valid one.

  12. So, does that mean laws prohibiting same-sex marriage can be overturned because they’re clearly discriminatory in intent? I’m guessing not, since it’s not happening, but that would seem to follow.

  13. Tapetum says:

    If endangering the fetus became a criminal action an awful lot of very subjective stuff becomes possibly criminal. For instance, about half-a-dozen different people would probably have tried to turn me in during my first pregnancy. Why? Well, at the time I became pregnant I was used to doing what my dojo called “Step Aerobics from Hell” – toss your partner over your shoulders in a fireman’s carry and do step aerobics on a step nearly knee high. So when my doctor told me not to carry more than about half what I normally would, my figuring went “One-half of 180 lbs is 90. Heck, lets be conservative, I won’t carry more than 60.”

    I had people rip 50 lb. bags of dog-food off my shoulder because “You shouldn’t be carrying that much.” One woman scolded me roundly for picking up a 10 lb. printer. I would have been explaining myself to the police on a daily basis.

    We won’t even go into what would happen to women who work with my husband at a chemical plant.

    However, the killer argument to me is #4. Criminalizing being an addict while pregnant helps nobody. Not the addict, not the fetus, not the public. In fact it endangers all those it purports to help by making it dangerous for the mother to seek medical care. Plus, jails are not notorious for their excellent medical care, and the treatment of pregnant, let alone laboring mothers. Many of them are a serious threat to the health and welfare of both mother and child all by themselves. (Chaining the mother, anyone?)

  14. Will says:

    Jeff, I think the trouble with applying the Equal Protection clause to marriage rights is that the equal protection clause is defined in negative terms: the state shall not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” No one is stopping queers from getting heterosexual marriages and accessing the same protection as a straight person. So, technically the state probably isn’t denying equal protection.

    It certainly is being an ***hole, and it’s certainly being unfair, and it certainly needs to be fixed, but it might not be violating the 14th amendment.

  15. preying mantis says:

    “…and you just reminded me of something I meant to include in the post and forgot. Damn. But the slippery slope argument is a big deal here — one legislator already tried to make it a crime for a woman to smoke in a car with children, or for a woman to smoke while pregnant. So the concern about criminalizing perfectly legal activities just because they are carried out by a pregnant person is a very valid one.”

    It’s particularly concerning given Congress’s complete and utter lack of consideration for medical evidence when passing bills. The circus that was the passing of the “partial-birth abortion act” that just got upheld made that pretty clear. We don’t even just have to worry about actual, sound, researched, medically-endorsed risky things being made illegal simply because someone’s pregnant–we have to worry about idiot legislators passing laws against pregnant women doing things they think are medically risky.

  16. Jill says:

    So, does that mean laws prohibiting same-sex marriage can be overturned because they’re clearly discriminatory in intent? I’m guessing not, since it’s not happening, but that would seem to follow.

    Well, part of the problem is that the EP clause is considered on a scale of scrutiny — race-based matters get strict scrutiny, and gender-based claims get heightened scrutiny. Basically, that means that the state has less of a burden to prove it has an interest in upholding the discriminatory law if the law is discriminating based on gender. A same-sex marriage equal protection claim would probably have to be gender-based, unless we can establish that queers are a protected class (or should be a protected class). That will be difficult.

    However, I do think a gender-based EP claim is a pretty solid one for same-sex marriage rights, the deal being that the laws are discriminatory based on gender because they disallow a person from marrying who they want simply because of their sex. I think it parallels pretty well to interracial marriage in that sense — anti-miscegenation laws still allowed black people to get married and still allowed while people to get married, just not to each other. Our current marriage laws allow men to get married and women to get married, but only to each other. So the sex discrimination claims, I think, are pretty strong. The problem, though, is that many people (including myself) would like to see LGBT people be considered a protected class, and gender-based claims won’t accomplish that.

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  18. Moira says:

    Texas recently passed a law forbidding foster parents from smoking in their cars with foster kids in them. An extension of the ban on smoking in the house with children present. There’s not very far to go on that slippery slope.

  19. TinaH says:

    And just an interesting side fact — after the fetuses-are-people argument proved to be a losing one, some prosecutors took a more creative tack and argued that the drug distribution occured after birth, in the 90-second period when the baby was outside of the woman’s body but still attached through the umbilical cord. Since the child has been born, there is no question of personhood. There is, however, a big question as to the medical possibility of transmitting drugs through the umbilical cord during that tiny period, and various anatomical issues that strongly suggest it isn’t very likely.

    An honest question: could there be more slippery sloping here because of the drugs used during labor and delivery to ease the pain of the mother? Some of that stuff passes through the placenta, leading to woozy newborns. I’m assuming that qualified professionals can tell the difference between recreational or addicted drug use during pregnancy and pain relief during labor in the infant.

    Or, am I just super-duper paranoid and worried that pain relief during labor could become criminalized? Granted, I have a weird mind. But, it wouldn’t surprise me, because aren’t we supposed to bring forth our children in travail? Genesis something or another.

  20. nik says:

    Pregnancy, like drug addiction, is a status. It is not a crime. And yet prosecutors are arguing that it’s a crime for the two statuses to occur simultaneously.

    Do they prosecute drug addicts who don’t use drugs? I ask because if they’re prosecuting people for drug use, rather than addiction per se, then status issues are irrelevant – but maybe it opens up questions about mental illness and criminal intent. Prosecuting pregnant women who use drugs but aren’t addicts seems a lot less harsh than prosecuting drug addicts for the same thing.

  21. preying mantis says:

    “Prosecuting pregnant women who use drugs but aren’t addicts seems a lot less harsh than prosecuting drug addicts for the same thing.”

    A lot of the definitions of “addiction” revolve around people continuing to use a substance in spite of negative consequences or the potential for negative consequences, and addiction does not hinge on being physically dependent on the substance.

    You could very easily make the argument that a woman who, for instance, did not stop using heroin ‘casually’ during pregnancy was an addict because she was willing to risk her pregnancy in order to get high. It’s not by any means a universal argument in the drug treatment industry, but the line between something being a problem and something being an addiction isn’t exactly well-defined.

  22. Jill says:

    Do they prosecute drug addicts who don’t use drugs? I ask because if they’re prosecuting people for drug use, rather than addiction per se, then status issues are irrelevant – but maybe it opens up questions about mental illness and criminal intent.

    I’m not really getting the question about drug addicts who don’t use drugs. If they don’t use drugs, then they aren’t drug addicts.

    The issue is prosecuting someone for their status as opposed to their illegal behavior. Drug addicts can be prosecuted for possessing, buying or selling drugs, just like everyone else. So can pregnant women. But they cannot be prosecuted simply for being addicted — that is, a cop can’t arrest someone just because that he notices track marks on that person’s arms, or because the person admits to being an addict. The Court has compared drug addiction to illness, for which a person cannot be criminally charged.

    Whether or not you can prosecute someone for drug use is a little more iffy, but it’s not really the situation here. The women here are being prosecuted after their doctors or nurses recognize that they’re drug addicts — it’s exceptionally rare that they would be apprehended by law enforcement while under the influence of drugs. The prosecutions are often based on testimonies by doctors or nurses that the women were drug addicts, not on possession or purchase charges (except when they’re being prosecuted for distributing drugs to their fetuses).

    So it is a status issue, and not generally an issue of simple use.

  23. Cecily says:

    Jill, thanks as always for sharing your law-fu with us laypeople.

    One thing I’m wondering about:

    Proving that a law is applied disproportionately is not sufficient to prove an EP violation.

    How strict is this? For instance, the drastically different sentencing guidelines for crack vs. cocaine don’t have anything about race written into them, but “applied proportionally” to (let’s pretend cops catch a lot of addicts) 80% of the crack-using and cocaine-using populations, they’re terribly racist. Is there a basis for challenging that under law?

  24. Just thought this was interesting:

    From this week’s Dear Prudie

    Dear Prudie,
    I am six months pregnant with my first child and am extremely concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke on a newborn, because my mother is a lifelong smoker. We both live in the same town, and she’s excited to have a grandchild close to her that she’ll be able to spend lots of time with. I know my mom would at least make the effort to go outside and smoke when her grandchild is with her. However, I’m very worried about the toxins in her clothes and on her skin from smoking. I’m worried about my child spending time at her house, because she does smoke inside when nobody else is around. I know a conversation about her smoking will make her defensive and upset, but I have to protect my child the best that I can. My husband tells me to just let the issue go because the supposed dangers are not worth the argument, since she’ll go outside to smoke, but Internet research seems to suggest differently.

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  26. mythago says:

    So, does that mean laws prohibiting same-sex marriage can be overturned because they’re clearly discriminatory in intent?

    Discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation.

    If they don’t use drugs, then they aren’t drug addicts.

    Drug addicts don’t use 24/7, and people who have stopped using drugs often describe themselves as ‘recovering addicts’. If the original question is about whether having an addiction can be a crime, no.

    Better stop or go to jail.

    I guess on the Tony Planet, all those women who post on mommy boards asking “I went to a party and had a few drinks, and I just found out I’m pregnant, did I hurt my baby?” should not be told “Probably not”, but should be clapped in irons.

  27. bluestockingsrs says:

    The reason the Equal Protection arguments are less successful is because the Court has established particular rules for enforcing the EP doctrine. The basic idea is that in order for a law to violate the EP clause, it must be discriminatory in its intent — which sounds reasonable enough, but in practice it means that you basically have to prove that someone is out to get you based on your race. It’s almost an impossible standard to meet. Proving that a law is applied disproportionately is not sufficient to prove an EP violation.

    Now, I remember that in Yick Wo the court found that the law was fair on its face but was being applied in a discriminatory manner against the Chinese in SF. Granted, this reasoning was completely abandoned in Plessy a few years later, but it is possible to prove that a law is being enforced unfairly. That whole, “though it be fair on its face” quote from the court.

    In OT news, my name appears on the pass list for the California Bar Exam.

    YAYAYAYAYAYYAY!

  28. preying mantis says:

    “Just thought this was interesting:

    From this week’s Dear Prudie”

    Dear lord, that woman’s going to let her mother near her infant? What is she thinking? Everyone knows smokers are ogres with a particular taste for the sweet flesh of suckling babes.

  29. mythago says:

    Everyone knows smokers are ogres with a particular taste for the sweet flesh of suckling babes.

    What an awful misconception. Smokers are really persecuted innocents.

  30. preying mantis says:

    “Smokers are really persecuted innocents.”

    But they make whipped-cream out of chilled baby’s blood! They put it on their minced-baby pies! There’s even a Truth ad devoted to the practice!

  31. mythago says:

    What terrible lies. We all know that second-hand smoke is harmless, and in fact, makes you extra-cool, just like smokers.

  32. mythago says:

    Oh, and bluestocking, CONGRATULATIONS!

  33. bluestockingsrs says:

    Thanks, mythago.

    It is a pretty big thing. I am beyond excited.

  34. Mnemosyne says:

    In OT news, my name appears on the pass list for the California Bar Exam.

    Congratulations! That’s a great accomplishment!

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