A woman was arrested after police officers saw her drinking while breastfeeding her baby. They say she was “extremely intoxicated,” but as far as I can tell, there isn’t much evidence to back up that contention. She apparently pleaded guilty to a Class C felony:
Officers responded to an unrelated call at a Grand Forks residence in the early morning of Feb. 13 and saw 26-year-old Stacey Anvarinia slurring her speech and breastfeeding, prosecutor Meredith Larson told the judge.
Citing a police report, Larson said officers were concerned about the infant’s welfare, so they called Altru Hospital and were told that breast-feeding while intoxicated was not good for the child.
“Ms. Anvarinia was notified of that, and she continued to make attempts to breast-feed,” Larson said.
Anvarinia, who no longer is in custody, is slated to be sentenced on the Class C felony charge Aug. 7.
This is one of those situations where bodily autonomy arguments get a little fuzzy (although either way, child neglect is a pretty severe crime to charge her with). If she was pregnant, I think it would be pretty clear that this would be a serious violation of her rights — after all, she has a right to consume legal substances like alcohol, pregnant or not. But things get tricker when they involve another human being, who cannot care for itself, being fed potentially dangerous substances — even if those substances are made dangerous by someone else engaging in a perfectly legal activity.
That said, there’s some question as to how dangerous alcohol consumption while breastfeeding actually is. Common belief seems to be that drinking while breastfeeding is a no-no, but from what I’ve read, moderate alcohol use poses virtually no harm to a breastfeeding infant. Whether the woman in this incident was consuming alcohol in moderation is clearly up for debate, but I can’t help but suspect that this case is more about what the police perceived as a Bad Mommy and less about any actual harmful effects on the baby.
While I’m often not a fan of slippery slope arguments (mostly because societies around the world have managed to draw reasonable legal lines), I do worry that this is another step towards policing “imperfect” motherhood. Is there all that much of a difference between charging a woman with a felony for drinking while breastfeeding and charging her with the same crime for smoking with kids in the house? (The difference, I suppose, is that men can smoke too, so they probably won’t start prosecuting parents for it).
The whole case just seems problematic to me. While of course children deserve protection from neglect and abuse — and I’m of the mind that children are afforded too few basic rights in our society — I have a hard time swallowing the argument that this qualifies as felony child neglect.
via The Frisky.
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