prison non-sense

“The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the state’s chemical endangerment statute, which was written in part to stop people from bringing children to places like methamphetamine labs, applies to foetuses.”

A few weeks ago I read in the New York Times the case of a woman who was sent to jail for taking drugs while pregnant and then almost barred from her parental rights when she tried to undergo an abortion. And I found this story quite shocking at many levels. First, while I see very little rationale in sending people to prison, this is certainly one of the most absurd jail sentences I heard of (if I understand correctly the story). There is no real debate to have about the fact that exposing a foetus to drugs (incl. alcohol) is running a terrible risk about the health and prospects of the future baby, however once this exposure had occurred, I see no point in a jail punishment, from both mother and future child perspectives. The prison deterrent was clearly not strong enough to prevent the woman from taking drugs during pregnancy.

“…a legal clash had seen the woman go to federal court to assert her right to an abortion, and the county’s district attorney go to an Alabama court to strip the woman of her parental rights over the foetus to block the abortion.”

The second shocking feature in this sad story is the attempt by both jail authorities and the local justice to bar the woman from having an abortion, which would seem to me like the most reasonable course of action given the terrible odds on the physical and mental prospects of the future baby. Which means that those people were taking over this woman’s body and claiming authority over a not-yet-born baby. Given the immense regression in abortion rights across America, this is not highly surprising, alas, but it remains a shock in seeing the denial of this woman’s rights over her body so clearly stated. The third shocking fact in this case is that it did not go to court as “the woman said she had changed her mind and would carry the child.” It is of course her right to change her mind, but I also find it hard to believe she had reached this decision on her own, with no pressure from the prison authorities. And equally shocking the absence of concern throughout about the future of this prospective baby…

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