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Decriminalize Pregnancy

October 6, 2006 permalink

The death of Marcus Fiesel has brought another another proposal from a clueless American politician. He wants to make drug use by a pregnant woman a felony. Marcus died from being tied up in a closet by his foster parents, making the proposal irrelevant. He would have been better served by making social service kidnapping a felony. The same factors driving mothers toward home birth will soon be driving them away from pre-natal care, further endangering their children. The next time CAS lets a kid die, we can expect the same proposal here. Then in addition to advocating "decriminalize motherhood" we will have to add "decriminalize pregnancy".



Drug-abusing mothers targeted

Marcus case spawns proposal

HAMILTON - State Rep. Courtney Combs said Thursday he plans to pursue legislative reforms that would punish pregnant women who abuse drugs.

Marcus Fiesel
Marcus Fiesel

The Hamilton Republican said in the next few weeks he will start the process of drafting a bill that would, among other things, make it a felony for mothers to refuse to enter a drug treatment program during the pregnancy or at the child's birth.

The proposal was initially put forward by Rawnica Dillingham, executive director of Mental Health Matters, in the wake of the death of 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel, who was found dead in a closet at his foster parents' home in Clermont County after he was left there for two days in August. The couple is now facing murder and other charges.

Marcus, although he was never diagnosed as such, was suspected to have suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome.

Combs said the proposal is intended both to help drug-addicted pregnant women get the care they need to give birth to a healthy child and to break the habit so they can keep their families together.

"We would hope that the love of the child would do that, but we know the truth is that's not the case," Combs said. "The problem is they're caught up in this vicious circle and it's a terrible thing. In order to break that circle of drug use, we're saying that if you're pregnant and you're on drugs, you must come in for treatment or there will be consequences."

Though proponents have backed away from an initial plan that would have jailed the mother and removed the child from her custody, the proposal is still drawing questions and criticism.

Bruce Jewett, director of the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services and president of the county's Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board, questioned Dillingham's claim that existing state and local treatment programs would be adequate to accommodate expectant mothers needing their service.

"One of the problems we have now is that there's lots of waiting lists," Jewett said.

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said the threat of jail will still bring the same result for mothers who need treatment.

"People will run, not walk, from prenatal care," he said. "Kids will still be born with drugs in their system, but studies have shown that a lack of prenatal care can actually be more harmful."

Wexler said that if officials really want to make a difference, they should ensure adequate access first, then find a way for parents to remain united with their children during treatment, and assess penalties if needed.

Combs said he expected his bill to be drafted by the end of the year, but he wouldn't introduce the legislation until early 2007. He said questions over the constitutionality of the proposal will be addressed as part of the bill-drafting process.

"You have to put it out there in order to discuss it," he said. "It may not look like it does here, but we're starting on a process that we hope will make a better environment for our children."

Source: Cincinnati Post