Should A Pregnant Woman Be Punished For Exposing Her Fetus To Risk?

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Should a Pregnant Woman Be Punished for Exposing Her Fetus to Risk?

Should a Pregnant Woman Be Punished for Exposing Her Fetus to Risk?


Substance abuse can prove to be dangerous or even fatal to pregnant women as well as their unborn fetus. According to various news sources, it is becoming increasingly common for babies to be born with symptoms of drug withdrawal or impaired prenatal development due to drug abuse by the pregnant mother. At the stage where the fetus starts developing internal or vital organs, drugs can cause severe damage to the development of the nervous system or cells or organs etc. Nevertheless, the greatest harm of drug/alcohol abuse during pregnancy is the potential harm they can cause to the normal growth of the baby - ultimately leading to severe health problems and even death in more severe cases (Kaebnick, 2013). Hence, the purpose of this paper is to analyze - as a healthcare administrator - if pregnant women who risk harming the fetus through drug/alcohol abuse should be punished for their irresponsible acts or not.


Deciding to punish pregnant women for causing harm to the fetus via drug/alcohol abuse is not an easy issue to analyze. There has been much debate regarding this issue, yet no appropriate or decisive legislative process exists to address this problem. The state of South Carolina has however been on the forefront of the problem. In 1977, the Supreme Court of South Carolina decided that pregnant women exposing their fetuses to harm via drug or alcohol abuse can be persecuted or punished under child abuse laws, as demonstrated in the case of Whitner vs. South Carolina. Ever since, states like Florida and Arizona have also followed suit. Moreover, the Medical University of South Caroline Hospital has been testing pregnant women for drugs regularly since ...