Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

In Utero in Court

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

In Utero in Court

Article excerpt

In Utero in Court. Judges continue to wrestle with the unique relationship that exists between the fetus and the pregnant woman. Under a Charleston, South Carolina, law-enforcement policy, city police officers have been arresting pregnant-women who test positive for cocaine use. Local prosecutors have then sought criminal indictments against these women for the "distribution" of drugs to a minor. Last May, however, one South Carolina prosecutor dismissed charges against two women arrested and charged under the policy. He did so after legal papers were filed in support of the women by attorneys for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Law & Policy (Reproductive Freedom News, 7 May 1993). The prosecutor concluded that the South Carolina legislature never intended the drug "distribution" crime to apply to pregnant women with substance abuse problems. He also cited new scientific evidence concerning the effects of drug use during pregnancy.

In New York, the state's highest court reinstated a class action suit brought by pregnant, drug-addicted women against a Manhattan hospital (Elaine W.v. Joint Diseases North General Hospital, 6 May 1993). The women had claimed that the hospital's policy of excluding all pregnant women from its drug detoxification program violated state human rights laws against sexual discrimination. The hospital countered that its blanket exclusion was medically justified, mainly because the hospital did not have the obstetricians, equipment, or license needed to provide prenatal care. The court ruled that the policy did discriminate against pregnant women by treating them differently from others solely because they are pregnant. …

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