Substance-exposed newborns

A place to post and discuss news.

Moderators: family_man, LindaJM

Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Substance-exposed newborns

Postby Marina » Sat Dec 29, 2007 8:33 pm

. ... ndarystory

Published: December 18, 2007 12:00 am

Charges dropped in child endangerment case; Woman had been accused of using heroin while pregnant

By James A. Kimble , Staff writer

HAMPSTEAD - Charges against a pregnant woman accused of injecting heroin while she was about 20 weeks pregnant have been dropped.

Prosecutors said they had no choice in tossing out the arrest of Nina Doane, 22, and her boyfriend, Albert Frost, 28, who had both been charged with misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child in late October. There are no laws in New Hampshire that offer protection to the unborn in criminal cases, according to Deputy County Attorney Tom Reid.

"The current law in New Hampshire doesn't recognize the fetus of an unborn child as another person under the criminal code," he said. "While we're all frustrated when we see individuals who engage in conduct that's harmful not only to themselves, but when a child is involved, the law doesn't support an unborn child as a victim."

Reid said the Doane matter didn't come to the attention of county prosecutors until recently. Doane was due in Plaistow District Court yesterday for her arraignment, but prosecutors officially dropped charges against her and Frost after meeting with Hampstead police last week, Reid said. Police had charged Frost for allegedly injecting Doane with heroin.

Hampstead police have not revealed how they came to arrest the couple, and the health of the unborn child has not been disclosed. Had they been convicted, Doane and Frost could have faced up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

So far, 30 states, including Massachusetts, have laws that recognize intentionally harming or killing a fetus as criminal. New Hampshire lawmakers have struggled in recent years to include protection for the unborn in criminal laws.

The latest attempt failed last year when the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee considered a bill to define an unborn child as another person in murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide cases.

"The unborn child is like a nonentity," said Rep. James Garrity, R-Atkinson, who cosponsored the bill. "If somebody shoots a pregnant woman two days away from delivery and the unborn child is killed, where's the justice? There is none."

He said bills in New Hampshire to protect unborn children from crime have drawn the ire of pro-choice advocates and others involved in the abortion debate.

"Even if you're trying to keep the abortion issue out on its own - we're trying to help victims of violent crime - unfortunately, in today's climate, the lobbyists on both sides come out screaming," Garrity said.

He said the dropped charges against Doane are a "case in point" of why a law is needed. "It doesn't seem right that someone can (commit) a crime and there's no punishment," he said.

According to the state's Child Protection Bureau, 34 percent of its 6,929 investigations in New Hampshire last year involved substance abuse that affected a child.

In Southern New Hampshire, 33 percent of the 477 neglect cases involved substance abuse that impacted children. Those cases included parents addicted to a variety of drugs, both illegal or over-the-counter. The state does not track how many children are born addicted to a substance or the types of substances.

He said the dropped charges against Doane are a "case in point" of why a law is needed. "It doesn't seem right that someone can (commit) a crime and there's no punishment," he said.

According to the state's Child Protection Bureau, 34 percent of its 6,929 investigations in New Hampshire last year involved substance abuse that affected a child.

In Southern New Hampshire, 33 percent of the 477 neglect cases involved substance abuse that impacted children. Those cases included parents addicted to a variety of drugs, both illegal or


The state does not track how many children are born addicted to a substance or the types of substances.

Last edited by Marina on Tue Jul 01, 2008 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Sat Feb 16, 2008 10:09 am

. ... -0012.html

New State Law Being Used To Prosecute Drug-using Moms

Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 - 02:03 PM

By Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Shekelia T. Ward gave birth Jan. 8 at Andalusia Regional Hospital, and the next day she was arrested, jailed and charged with chemical endangerment of a child, a felony.

The reason: Ward and her newborn both tested positive for cocaine, and the hospital reported the information to authorities as evidence of possible child abuse.

Ward's experience is the product of a new law that has some prosecutors, particularly in southeast Alabama, arresting new mothers who test positive for illicit drugs. The prosecutors began filing charges after the Legislature in 2006 made it illegal to "chemically endanger" a child.

The new law and how it is being applied is raising a multitude of legal, ethical and medical issues.

Gregory L. Gambril, prosecuting attorney for Covington County, said his office has charged about 10 new mothers with chemical endangerment of a child since the law was passed. Two of the cases involved deaths of newborns caused by methamphetamine abuse, he said.

Gambril said children need protection, and the new law is there to do that.

"The unborn children are not making the choice," he said. "It's the mothers who are making the choice to do it to them."

But he acknowledged the law has some problems and needs clarification. Originally proposed to prosecute parents who exposed children to toxins associated with methamphetamine production, it doesn't mention pregnant women or their babies.

"It's obviously a close call under the law," Gambril said. "We would like the matter cleared up with a statute."

Gambril said his prosecutors are focusing on pregnant women who are addicted to methamphetamine, but other drug exposures are being decided case by case. It's all being done properly, he said.

"We do it hand in hand with pediatricians here, the OB-GYNs here, with the doctors," Gambril said. "Everybody seems to be consistently on board."

He said cases are settled when mothers agree to go into treatment.

"We are doing this for the sole purpose of trying to make sure both the mother and the child have a healthy pregnancy," he said. "We're not trying to throw these women in jail. That's absolutely not the goal of it."

Still, 28-year-old Ward remained in jail this week. Her bond was set at $250,000.

"For whatever reason, Covington County is notorious for having high bonds," said Corey Daniel Bryan, a public defender representing Ward. "With this law being fairly new, the judges have taken a hard stance."

Bryan said Ward's newborn is in the custody of a grandparent. "The baby's health is fine," he said.

He said the chemical endangerment statute is badly flawed, though the intent of the law was good: Getting children away from methamphetamine production. "Of course, what always happens with these type things is the Legislature writes a general, vague law, and the district attorneys grab hold of it and start charging everybody with it."

The prosecutions are based upon the premise that a fetus is a person, something that runs contrary to federal court rulings. "That is going to have to be taken up at some point," Bryan said. "It's just a matter of it getting to the higher courts."

Other lawyers raise the issue of the practicality of courts micromanaging a woman's pregnancy, and whether doing so is in the best interest of the baby.

In Dale County, prosecutors last year charged a new mother from Daleville, Sheila Denean Cox, with chemical endangerment after a hospital reported that she and her newborn tested positive for marijuana.

Donna Coon Crooks, a defense attorney for Cox, said that was taking chemical endangerment too far, and that the law casts too wide a net. The charges were reduced to a misdemeanor, Crooks said.

Studies have found that as many as 10 percent of pregnant women test positive for some illicit drug, and that's not counting those who drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, which clearly put fetuses at risk.

In fact, an Arkansas legislator in 2006 suggested a law making it illegal for a pregnant woman to smoke. Then-Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican who is running for president, said such a law made sense from a health standpoint.

The new law also raises questions about patient privacy, unreasonable searches and the relationship between law enforcement officials and health care providers.

In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that a Charleston, S.C., hospital had violated the rights of new mothers by testing them for illicit drugs and turning the information over to prosecutors. Thus, the hospital and staff members left themselves open to lawsuits, the court ruled.

In its decision, the court said there was a near consensus in the medical community that these types of programs were potentially harmful to children because fear of prosecution could prevent pregnant, drug-addicted women from seeking prenatal care.

Amy Dugger, a nurse practitioner at Andalusia Regional Hospital, said there was no written policy at the hospital on drug testing new mothers. She said hospital officials were bound by Department of Human Resources guidelines requiring the reporting of possible child abuse, and that new mothers testing positive for illicit drugs fell into that category.

"We just work with DHR," she said. "We don't call law enforcement. DHR does that."

But no matter what the reporting requirements, she said the welfare of the mother and baby come first. "Our DA is very aggressive with this, and I commend him for that."


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Sat Apr 12, 2008 3:38 am


Should Once-Pregnant Drug User Keep Infant?

Posted: April 11, 2008 12:38 AM EDT

Unclear If Once Pregnant, Cocaine-Using Woman Will Keep Child

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Should a Midstate woman accused of using a deadly weapon against her own unborn child be allowed to keep her baby after it's born?

The courts and the Tennessee Department of Children's Services are currently dealing with this case.

It started earlier this year when nurses found cocaine in the bloodstream of Demetria Jones, who was seven months pregnant.

In a Williamson County courtroom, prosecutors said Jones used a deadly weapon against her unborn baby - cocaine.

Two months later, Jones gave birth.

Her daughter is reportedly doing well.

Jones said she is allowed to keep her child despite the charges.

DCS officials said decisions in cases such as this one aren't made lightly.

"Juvenile court is very involved with us. Oftentimes law enforcement is. If it's a criminal matter, the district attorney's office is involved," Carla Aaron, a DCS spokeswoman.

Aaron said one of the biggest factors in deciding whether a mother can keep her child is whether or not she has the support of her family.

"They know what's expected and they help hold the parent accountable or help pull them up when things get rough," Aaron said.

Jones said she has that kind of help. Relatives have custody of some of her seven children. They are also helping her take care of her newborn.

"My baby has been tested negative for everything, and I've been clean for going on two months now," Jones said.

DCS said taking custody of a child is the last option, but the agency will not hesitate to do so if the child's in danger.

Unless that's the case, DCS said keeping the baby with family members is simply the best thing for the child.

Jones' criminal case is expected to go before the grand jury in the next couple of months.


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Tue Jul 01, 2008 4:31 pm


Los Angeles Daily News Examines Connection Between High Number Of Minority Children In Foster Care System, Drug Tests Given To Minority Mothers

Article Date: 01 Jul 2008 - 12:00 PDT

Some health care officials maintain that the high population of minority children in the foster care system can be attributed in part to hospitals and welfare agencies disproportionately administering drug tests to low-income, pregnant minority women who seek public health care, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Nationwide, 58% of the 513,000 children in foster care are minorities, although they comprise only 42% of the U.S. child population, according to the Daily News.

A Journal of Women's Health study found black women and their newborns were 1.5 times more likely than other races and ethnicities to be tested for the presence of illicit drugs. The decision on which patients should be screened for illicit drug use, is up to individual hospital staff, the Daily News reports. In addition, poor and minority mothers who test positive for drug use are often unaware or unable to afford additional tests to confirm the first finding.

Dorothy Roberts, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law and author of a book on welfare, said, "There is very strong evidence that hospital staff are more likely to suspect drug use on the part of black mothers and these mothers are more likely to have their children removed and put in foster care."

Barry Lester, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Brown University who lobbied to develop a national policy on the issue, said, "Hospitals have different rules on how they decide who to drug test," adding, "Sometimes the rules are medically based. ... But a lot of times the decision is based on clinical suspicion" and as a result, "There is a tremendous imbalance of poor people and minorities who end up getting tested" (Anderson, Los Angeles Daily News, 6/29).

Reprinted with kind permission from


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:29 pm


July 22, 2008- Eugene, Oregon
Kids get to stay with their moms while mom is in treatment for chemical addiction.

EUGENE, Ore. -- For Cheri, Kristina and Shantelle, having their babies taken away from them was a real wake-up call.

"They took my baby from me because I told them I was high on meth," Cheri said.

Meth-using moms can lose their babies to the foster care system because of the danger the drug poses to the child. Programs like the Family Reunion Program give meth-addicted but motivated mothers a path to recovery -- and an intact post-meth family.

Willamette Family works with the Oregon Department of Human Services and a relief nursery to analyze which moms would be motivated to get their lives back in order and their babies back in their mothers' arms -- for good.

"We have 12 parenting beds, five of them funded," said Edith Baumgart with Willamette Family, Inc. "We're able to look at the families who are really motivated to do treatment, who are willing to do the volunteer re-unification program and to do the hard work it takes to get their children back with them."

The mother and child bond is maintained rather than disrupted by treatment, said Kelly Augustadt of the Department of Human Services.

"We can put them in here immediately, rather than saying ok, we're going to put this baby in foster care and you're going to have to wait to get into treatment and when you can, then this baby can get back with you, so right there, that mom that baby, the bond is going to be there," she explained.

The average time spent in treatment is 4 to 6 months, with about 3 months of out-patient treatment and more parenting classes.

The numbers speak for themselves: 70 families have gone through this program since it's inception in January 2006 with an 85 percent success rate.


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:06 pm

. ... _and_style

Posted on Thu, Mar. 22, 2001

Poor S.C. women win drug-test case

Published on: 03/22/2001

Drug-testing pregnant women and giving the results to police without the women's consent is unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The decision concludes an eight-year battle waged by 10 low-income South Carolina women.

The decision does not resolve the debate over what is the best way to handle pregnant drug-users: treatment or prosecution. But it does guarantee that all women - be they sober or drug users - are protected by the Fourth Amendment. That amendment forbids illegal searches and seizures without a warrant or the person's consent.

Furnishing tainted urine from pregnant drug users to police, to use as evidence, constitutes an illegal search, the court ruled. "I trusted these people," one plaintiff, Missy Nicholson, 39, of Charleston, said of hospital staff. "They just outright lied to me. It was so sneaky and underhanded."

Pregnant drug-users such as Nicholson, who sought prenatal care at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston between 1989 and 1994, had their urine used as evidence against them without either a warrant or their consent. Attorney General Charlie Condon was Charleston County solicitor at the time and devised the policy. He now is running for governor.

The arrests were enacted at a hospital that serves mostly poor African-American patients at a time when the crack-cocaine epidemic was in full swing. Hospital workers and law enforcement personnel were frustrated by the influx of pregnant drug users. They teamed in a desperate bid to stop the cycle.

"There is no right of a mother to jeopardize the health and safety of an unborn child through her own drug abuse," Condon said.

Women and some medical professionals said the state went too far and violated women's civil rights. Women were handcuffed, shackled, and/or taken to jail while still pregnant or just after giving birth. Other drug users avoided prenatal care, fearing arrest.

"We were all traumatized very much," said Nicholson, who was eight months pregnant and addicted to drugs when she sought treatment at MUSC in 1994.

The lawsuit was filed in 1993. In October, plaintiffs' attorneys successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the Fourth Amendment had been violated.

"It's such a thrill," said Lynn Paltrow, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York, which represents the women. "The women are getting justice."

The arrests at MUSC ceased in 1994 when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services threatened to withdraw federal funding. But Condon adopted a similar statewide policy in 1998 that still stands.

The Supreme Court decision does not outlaw that policy, but places stiffer requirements upon it.

Condon's three-year-old policy instructs doctors (except at MUSC) to report all pregnant drug users to the state Department of Social Services. Women who decline to seek drug treatment risk jail time.

The court's ruling simply requires law enforcement personnel to get a court warrant, or signed consent from pregnant women, before using drug test results as evidence.

Getting search warrants will not be difficult, said Condon, who described the court's ruling as "minor."

"Most of these cases are very straightforward," Condon said. "There's generally a history of drug abuse. Generally the women will come in clearly under the influence."

Pregnant drug users can be charged under child abuse laws in South Carolina since a viable fetus is defined as a person in this state. A viable fetus is one at least 24 weeks old and able to survive outside the womb.

"The goal is not maternal prosecution," Condon said. "The goal is fetal protection. "

How often fetal child-abuse cases are filed under this policy, is unclear. Johnny Gasser, deputy solicitor for Richland County, said Condon's policy rarely comes into play.

Most law enforcement agencies and solicitors' offices here pursue crack-cocaine cases involving children only after they are born, he said.

"Our focus has been on mothers who have given birth," Gasser said. "We have not prosecuted one mother solely based on her testing positive during prenatal care."

In deciding the case, filed as Crystal Ferguson vs. City of Charleston, the Supreme Court rejected Condon's argument that the MUSC drug searches fell under a "special needs exception" to the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals had upheld the special needs contention in 1999, finding that fetal health was at stake. The Supreme Court reversed that ruling.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the 6-3 majority: "The interest in using the threat of criminal sanctions to deter pregnant women from using cocaine, cannot justify" the failure to use a warrant. Dissenting were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

The American Medical Association, which joined more than 70 organizations in filing briefs supporting the plaintiffs, said threatening the women with arrest and jail time deters them from seeking care.

"The concern we had, was the preservation of the patient-physician relationship and the chilling effect it might have on women seeking prenatal care," said Dr. Timothy Flaherty, chairman-elect of the AMA Board of Trustees.

Today, the children who were fetuses when their mothers were arrested, range in age from 7 to pre-teens. Wyndi Anderson, director of the South Carolina Advocates for Pregnant Women, spent much of Wednesday calling the women to share the news.

"I was so overwhelmed I started to cry," said Anderson, who has been their adviser for several years. "You hear them say, 'somebody thought they did something wrong to me, finally.' "

The women are seeking millions in damages from Condon and other defendants. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit to determine whether any women gave consent for the urine tests. Those who did would be ineligible for financial compensation.

The decision had been broadcast on CNN throughout the day and was the focus of a roundtable discussion. Viewers phoned and emailed comments from across the country.

"I told them this morning, do you understand what you did, protects the rights of every pregnant woman in the country?" Anderson said. "They said, 'little old me?' "


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:25 pm ... 350/-1/RSS

Charges dropped against pregnant teen

February 7, 2009

Child endangerment charges have been dropped against a Polk County teenager who was allegedly observed smoking marijuana during her pregnancy.

Chelsey Smith allegedly answered the door of her parents' home on Dec. 5 when an undercover narcotics officer arrived to buy marijuana from her mother. The pregnant 17-year-old allegedly smoked a joint and offered it to the undercover officer.

"There's case law in Missouri that we showed to the judge that states that the conduct alleged is not a crime," said Smith's public defender Roxanna Mason. "On those grounds, the judge sustained the motion. I've had no indication from the prosecutor he'll file new charges."

Polk County Prosecutor Paul Davolt did not return a call for comment.

Posts: 1307
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2005 11:17 pm

Postby Momoffor » Sun Mar 15, 2009 3:51 am

If it isnt stopped pretty soon CPS will be going after mothers who invoke their right for pro choice and have an abortion for felony child abuse resulting in death. No matter which side someone sits on the fence, ROE VS. WADE gave women the RIGHT to decide what to do with their bodies. CPS is trying to take that 'parental right' away as well.

I dont think doing drugs while pregnant is right, and I have a personal opinion of women who do drugs when they know they are pregnant with no regard to the child. BUT, it just irritates me all to hell that CPS keeps getting bolder and bolder in how far they will go in dictating 'parental rights'.

The more time goes on, the more socialistic the US is becoming. I am no longer just worried about the powers of CPS alone, but more and more rights are being taken away from us and we sit by and just watch this country fall apart at the seams. ' At this point only one thing can happen to save it .......'dissolve'

Just my 2 cents.

Return to “In the News”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests