TREATMENT PROGRAMS BEST WAY TO FIGHT DRUGS

June 26, 2000

By: Wyndi Anderson, The State (SC), June 26, 2000

I read with concern your editorial, "Limits during pregnancy should be defined in law" ( May 23 ). While much of what is stated is true, the conclusion, "The idea of declaring certain activities during pregnancy to be illegal is a sound one," flies in the face of every leading medical group to address the issues of pregnancy and addiction. Groups ranging from the March of Dimes to the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Medical Association have all recognized that treating any aspect of pregnancy as a criminal justice matter not only threatens pregnant women, but will undermine the health interests of fetuses and children.

No matter how narrowly defined a piece of legislation is, it will still turn what is a woman's status -- pregnancy -- into a potential crime and, in all likelihood, deter women from obtaining prenatal and other health care.

While it is impossible to determine if any single factor made the difference, it should certainly be of concern that following the Whitner decision, there was an increase in infant mortality in this state for the first time in 10 years.

For more than a decade, legislatures across the country have considered proposals to criminalize some aspect of pregnancy. These legislatures have unanimously rejected such an approach, not only out of concern for basic civil liberties, but in recognition of the overwhelming medical evidence that such an approach is counterproductive and dangerous.

The most powerful and productive action a legislature could take to help children and women who are affected by drug addiction is to allocate funding for programs that treat addiction and rehabilitate families that have been torn apart by poverty, neglect and poor education.

Wyndi Anderson is the Executive Director South Carolina Advocates for Pregnant Women Charleston