Tennessee recently passed a law that is the first of it’s kind. They have decided that their state Medicaid will not pay for all or any portion of addiction treatment even for pregnant women that are battling addiction. They then went on to decide that they are allowed to jail women who used drugs at any point during their pregnancy, even if the child was not born with any illicit substances in their system.
Ok, does anyone else see the sickening hypocrisy in this law? The inherent dangers in this? Actually, I will say that the governor was allegedly told by health care professionals, pediatricians, OB/GYNs, and psychiatrists that this law was an awful idea. Still to this day, a large number of people seem to think that mothers simply are not drug addicts. Even if they were addicts at one point of their lives, that part of their brain is supposed to just shrivel up and die the second that they find out that they are pregnant. The maternal tendencies and the overwhelming urge to protect your child is supposed to be strong enough to make you just become instantly clean.
The only problem with this idea, this general sexist attitude towards women, is that it is simply scientifically unfounded and not at all factual. Yes, as mothers we do inherently feel the need to protect our children at all costs. This, actually means that we can not quit using drugs (cold turkey that is). I have written about this previously, about my own personal experience with becoming pregnant while I was using heroin. Heroin withdraw can very easily kill a fetus, and often does, if not done the right way. This means in a rehab or a hospital, with doctors and nurses watching you. Hey, guess what? Inpatient rehab, or extended hospital stays are not cheap. Actually, most rehabs will not let you into their facility unless you either have an insurance that will cover all or most of the cost, or they want cash up front. Starting to see my issue with this fucked up law? How are women supposed to go out and get help, get detoxes, get put on methadone maintenance if they are not rich and if the state will not help them pay?
The people who allowed this law to pass claim that it is intended to save the babies, but it is counterintuitive. You are first not allowing the women to get help, then locking them up, but this doesn’t help any newborns at all. If women can’t get help,then they won’t get help. The babies will be born dirty, only thing is that now they will not have their mother’s there to sooth them while they are detoxing in the hospital on opiate drops. Social services will inevitable take the child after the mother has been arrested for child endangerment and child abuse/neglect. Babies in foster care? Who is being helped by this?
Of course, the women could just quit, sure. There is a high probability that the fetus will die. So what good did scaring these women “straight” do? Not only did the baby never even have a shot at life, but the mother is going to feel unnecessary guilt over the fact that their child died due to their addiction. This is so fucking unfair that I can not even begin to quantify it with words. Most of theses women got pregnant by accident. They didn’t go out and try to get pregnant while they were in active addiction. Making them feel this immensely heavy feelings of guilt is only going to serve to throw them further into the hole of addiction. Self medicating and what not.
I have a feeling that this law will force the abortion rate up as well. Both legal abortions, and cruel back alley abortions. You the brutal kind with hangers and what not that no woman should ever have to experience. Terrifying these women into thinking that they will go to jail because they can not afford to get the help they need, is going to cause some women to decide to end the pregnancy. They may not want to have a baby if it is going to put them in jail and send the baby in to foster care.
People are going to do what people are going to do. Trying to make laws that serve to only prosecute women is sexist an entirely unfair. The men who get these women pregnant can do as they choose. Yes, I am obviously aware that what they put in their bodies can not harm a fetus, but still. Very few women who are using hard core, addictive drugs go out and try to become pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that they should not have the opportunity to have and raise their child.