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Parsons gave birth to her son alone in a dirty Maryland jail cell furnished only with a toilet and a bed with no sheets. She had been in labor for several hours and had countless times pleaded for help and medical attention. The requests were denied.
The Jennifer Road Detention Center, where she was incarcerated, repeatedly ignored her cries that she was well into labor and needed to go to the hospital. Other inmates, hearing Parsons' cries, implored guards to take her to the hospital.[
Instead, guards took her out of a holding area with other inmates -- who had helped to time her contractions -- and put her in a cell by herself. A few hours later, Parsons gave birth completely alone, without health care or support of any kind. According to press reports, although completely healthy when he was born, Parsons' son soon developed an infection due to the unsanitary conditions of his birth.
When Kari Parsons began to have labor pains a few days before giving birth, she was taken to a medical facility and later returned to the detention center. She was transported in handcuffs and shackles. Although international law and treaties signed by the United States prohibit the shackling of pregnant and birthing women, Amnesty International USA reports that only two states -- Illinois and California -- have banned the barbaric practice throughout pregnancy and childbirth.
But Tracy Fabry, a 19-year-old recovering addict, said having such a law on the books might have stopped her from injecting methamphetamine throughout her two pregnancies.
"It sounds selfish, but in my addiction, I wouldn't have cared about my children. But I would have cared about my freedom," she said.
Bob Neri, the Florida-based chief clinical officer for West Care, said Nevada wouldn't be the first state to criminalize drug abuse by pregnant women. But, he said, states that have penalties are moving away from incarceration and toward treatment.
He said that in Florida, where laws against illegal substance abuse in the 1980s and 1990s were strengthened to include harsher punishments for pregnant women, authorities found "a boom of abandoned babies and dead babies found in Dumpsters."
By combining drug war propaganda with claims of fetal rights, new and significant violations of civil liberties and human rights are occurring. In the last twenty years, hundreds of pregnant women and new mothers have been arrested, based on the argument that a pregnant woman’s drug use is a form of abuse or neglect. In 1997, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that a pregnant woman who used coc aine and who gave birth to a healthy baby could be convicted of child abuse. More recently, a pregnant woman who used coc aine and suffered a stillbirth that was caused by an infection-- has been convicted of homicide by child abuse in South Carolina.
ot marijuana (actually harmless to an infant, not one incident of it ever harming a fetus ever anywhere.)
Q: If a woman is pregnant and smokes marijuana, will it hurt the baby?
A: Doctors advise pregnant women not to use any drugs because they could harm the growing fetus. Although one animal study has linked marijuana use to loss of the fetus very early in pregnancy, two studies in humans found no association between marijuana use and early pregnancy loss. More research is necessary to fully understand the effects of marijuana use on pregnancy outcome.
Studies in children born to mothers who used marijuana have shown increased behavioral problems during infancy and preschool years. In school, these children are more likely to have problems with decisionmaking, memory, and the ability to remain attentive(2).
Researchers are not certain whether health problems that may be caused by early exposure to marijuana will remain as the child grows into adulthood. However, since some parts of the brain continue to develop throughout adolescence, it is also possible that certain kinds of problems may appear as the child matures.
Substance Used Percent of Pregnant Women Number of Pregnant Women
Any illicit drug(1) 5.5 220,900
Marijuana 2.9 118,700
Cocaine 1.1 45,100
Crack 0.9 34,800
Alcohol 18.8 756,900
Cigarettes 20.4 819,700
Alcohol: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, results in: a disorder characterized by growth retardation, facial abnormalies, and central nervous system dysfunction, miscarriages, etc.
Cigarettes: They're classed as Category D: Adequate well-controlled or observational studies in pregnant women have demonstrated a risk to the fetus. However, if it will save the mothers life they can be taken. Results in growth retardation, facial abnormalies, etc.
Cocaine/Crack: Category X: Adequate well-controlled or observational studies in animals or pregnant women have demonstrated positive evidence of fetal abnormalities or risks.
Marijuana: Studies have shown rate of childhood acute nonlymphoblastic leukemia but scientists have admitted not enough studies have been done on the subject.