I was having this discussion on feministing and i wondered what people here would think.


The argument for allowing abortion is generally that up until at least a few months if not later but definitely for all the time in the womb a baby is not really a person. The reason you cant kill very young infants is because they are often wanted by others and they dont impinge on the mothers right to control her body so its better to put them up for adoption or in foster care.


But given that you have decided to have the baby and it will absolutely be a person, do you have the right as a pregnant mother to do things which are harmful to the child? Smoking, drinking, serious drugs, whatever else you can think of that could harm the child in utero. Because the baby is going to be a person and anything you do will affect them when they qualify as human does it constitute a crime or child abuse to do things which will damage its cognitive development, or other parts of its development? After all you cant make a baby or even a child under 18 smoke or drink, which is effectively what you are doing to the child.



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Hm, I think the thought I have on this is that in the case of abortion and pregnancy is that both are expressions of responsibility. If a woman is not capable or able to take care of a child, she should have the ability to have an abortion in a clean medical facility. She knows she won't be able to do right by that child, so she's getting an abortion. Something I can respect because let's be honest, shit happens.


In the case of a woman who is pregnant and knows she is yet smokes heavily,drinks and does heavy drugs. I think she's being irresponsible and should be talked to about what she's doing. But I am really hungry so I'll explain in detail later...

a certain amount of alcohol is probably safe. but if there is an amount which can harm a child and someone goes over the line, what are they on the hook for?





the problem is what if they dont want an abortion? then what options have we got? the argument that we should never infringe on a womens control of her own body precludes any sort of regulation of addicts having brain damaged kids.

This is a slippery slope.  Having known and been in laws with people who have fetal alcohol syndrome, it seems like the mother should be held accountable for the child's disability when her actions caused it.  If a child is born needing detox and rehab because mom wouldn't lay off the heroine for 9 months,  she should definitely be looked into for child abuse. 


Smoking, I'm not so sure of.  I understand it can cause low birth rate babies and may increase the odds a child will have adhd, but there's not so much solid evidence that smoking absolutely causes birth defects or serious harm to the child. 


It's a slippery slope when we start dealing with prenatal child abuse.  Is it child abuse when the mom does not take prenatal vitamins?  My doctor thought it was horrible that  I wouldn't take the fish oil supplements he wanted me to take.  Fish oil made me puke without being pregnant.  When you're already spending your free time worshiping at the bathroom altar, you sure don't want to spend more time doing that and prenatal vitamins and fish oil can definitely push you over the hurling edge. 


There's a big difference between being a coke addict and being a smoker or just refusing to take prenatal vitamins.  If the child is born all messed up and it's due to the mother's being a drunk or a junkie, then yes, prosecute her, because she has seriously harmed someone.  Even though it means some poor people will be messed up because their mother was a damn junkie and that's really sad, I think it's just a very slippery slope to start prosecuting pregnant women for child abuse.  It's possible for a woman to continue to bleed every months for several months into the pregnancy.  Should a woman be prosecuted for doing the wrong things when she didn't even know she was pregnant? 


I can see this going into Handmaiden's Tale land when women of child bearing age are refused service at bars and liquor stores on the off chance they might unknowingly be pregnant.  Also, I don't want us to go down the path where women who have miscarriages are prosecuted for something beyond their or anyone else's control. 


Yes, if a baby is born damaged because mom would not stop shooting up meth or whatever, then it is child abuse and mom should be prosecuted.  But I also believe junkies should have free access to birth control and abortion too - even if they use abortion as a birth control method.  People who want babies don't generally want a crack baby or an AIDS baby.  They want a perfect healthy baby - not a lifetime challenge. 

well obviously we would have to look at what things actually harm babies, but assuming we have good evidence that something is harmful, should we prosecute? should their be laws and fines and jail time? should we forbid procreation by certain people who are incapable of providing a safe environment for a fetus? we already do this sort of thing to people who have children/infants.

As a mother and a woman whose actually been pregnant, I don't really want to go there.  Even if the mother went through mandatory drug testing at every prenatal appointment (and until the last weeks that's only once a month), many women  who abuse alcohol or drugs could fall through the cracks anyway.  Alcohol passes though the system rather quickly.  Mom could be hitting the sauce everyday of the week, but sober up a day or two before her appointment and pass with flying colors.  Another mom smokes a half a joint once in a month gets slammed because marijuana stays in the system a long time. 


Insurance and Medicaid barely want to pay for once a month appointments, they aren't going to go for once a week prenatal appointments or daily drug an alcohol checks. 


Smoking is bad, yes.  But we don't charge smokers with child abuse just because they smoke.  I know plenty of moms who smoked some while pregnant and had normal weight babies and their kids do not have adhd.  I also know moms who never smoked in their lives and they have low birth weight babies and/or their kids have adhd.  ADHD is a difficult thing for a parent or a person to live with, but it isn't the worst thing.  It is not fetal alcohol syndrome, for example. 


I don't have the answer, but I don't believe a woman is the servant of her womb.  Where do you draw the line?  Well, heroine use is probably a no  brainer, but what about refusing to take prenatal vitamins?  A lot of women do because it makes them puke like there's no tomorrow.  But hey, everyone knows prenatal vitamins are good for the baby.   Is the lack of prenatal vitamins harming the child and causing an unsafe environment?  What about women who may be four months pregnant before they even know they are pregnant and tossed a few too many back a time or two?  Should they be prosecuted, because they did do something harmful to their baby? 


Meth head, obvious. Smoking, drinking, not doing exactly everything your doctor says - not so obvious. 


I'm not going to go there on forbidding people to procreate, because there are a lot of people who think poor women or women of color shouldn't be allowed to have children.  That sort of thing can easily slide into Nazi land. 

well obviously its a complicated issue. after all, evolution doesnt give a crap about your feelings. we didnt evolve in a way conducive to a systematic system of morality. but you have to work with what you've got.


cases with meth or crack or herion are obviously much more clear cut than alcohol or smoking, although its still a shit fest due to arguments over therapy and the fact that junkies having sex likely wont give a shit about laws regarding pregnancy based child abuse. i mean, they already break the law daily.


im not a doctor and my medical knowledge is mostly based on how interested i am in a topic, i'd have to look up the statistics for prenatal vitamins and the problems that could occur with a pregnancy if during the period when a women didnt know she was pregnant. of course i would suggest that if a child was found to have severe damage in the womb due to its mother not realizing she was pregnant i would suggest abortion, but there we get back to the fact that we cant force abortions on anyone, again a consequence of evolutions lack of concern with rights and morals.


i would probably include a proviso for not punishing women who caused harm to their child when they didnt know they were pregnant. it would probably be necessary to establish that a women knew she was pregnant and still chose to engage in harmful behaviors.


since none of us are lawyers i doubt we can establish a working legal strategy for dealing with this issue. even real lawyers often miss things and wind up with unintended consequences.

I'm wondering even with hard drugs, how much damage is done and how long-lasting is it? Apparently people used to be up in arms about "crack-babies", but it hasn't turned out to be the epidemic it was thought to be.

wiki says that although crack doesnt cause super obvious effects on the baby in utero there are some recorded developmental effects.


i guess i am fine with no legal ramifications for problems caused to babies in the womb by their mothers, but only under the claim of unavoidable, which is an argument that works perfectly well for the opposite side of the issue in regards to the mother.


a lot of reproductive issues fall under the umbrella of intractable moral issues. ie there is no real solution.

The problem with punishing the mother is that it is too inviting to say "Why is it not OK to do drugs and drink while pregnant because it could harm your baby, but it's perfectly OK to kill it?" There's too much potential for any law to be co-opted by the "pro-life".


Although I also wonder if some of the women who stay smoking and drinking, etc while pregnant are the ones who reluctantly carry their pregnancy to term because they don't believe in abortion.


I look at it this way: if it's in your body, you have the right to expel it. If you choose to keep it, you have taken on a responsibility. Laws probably won't help. Education, and assistance getting off substances, are a better approach.

as i said earlier, the fetus has no rights in this case unless you are choosing to keep it. its not a person until a certain period after its out of a the womb so its not murder. but if you arent going to abort then it gains human rights as things done in the womb can affect its life as a human.


obviously this would be a pretty complicated aspect of the law, i cant think of a reproductive issue that isnt.

Or no matter how hard they try, they can't quit smoking.  I've known great mothers who were smokers.  They did cut back, but did not stop smoking while pregnant.  Not because they didn't desperately want to quit for their own health as well as the baby's, but they couldn't.  I lost my grandpa and recently my uncle to lung cancer.  Those cigarettes can really grab a person hard and not let go.  I think cigarettes may be just as addicting, if not more, than most drugs or alcohol.  I have never smoked, but I know it's really hard to quit and it's hard to get insurance to pay for the cession programs.  A lot of women try really hard to quit smoking and can't.  I've known others who could really care less and they did a lot of bad things, not just smoke.



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