Women who take illegal drugs while pregnant can face jail in some US states, on the grounds that they're harming their unborn child.
But in some cases those charges are "bogus," writes Kristen Gwynne in a controversial at progressive site Alternet.
According to South Carolina law, mothers are only guilty of a crime if the fetus is harmed by the drugs. But in rare cases women are still charged and convicted, as happened to 21-year-old Regina McKnight, who was arrested for homicide when her baby was stillborn after a pregnancy in which McKnight had taken cocaine. The conviction was overturned after four years of her sentence, based on research showing that cocaine wouldn't have significantly harmed the fetus.
In Alabama taking drugs while pregnant constitutes "the crime of chemical endangerment," based on a personhood law that regards the fetus as a child. The Alternet piece suggests that Alabama's law is too sweeping, since not all drugs are equally likely to harm unborn babies.
However, Alternet downplays the fact that common addictive drugs have serious side effects for the fetus. Methamphetamine is linked to low birth weight and developmental difficulties. And if mothers take opiates like heroin and oxycodone, babies will be born with withdrawal symptoms.