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Covington County, Alabama prosecuting attorney Gregory L. Gambril interprets a 2006 child "chemical endangerment" law to include the unborn, prompting concern over patient privacy and judicial precedent.
Section 26-15-3.2 (Act 2006-204, §2) of the Code of Alabama makes it a felony to expose a child to a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia. The punishment becomes more severe if the child suffers injury or death as a result.
"The unborn children are not making the choice," explained Gambril to The Birmingham News in February. "It's the mothers who are making the choice to do it to them."
One such mother, Shekelia Ward, was jailed under $250,000 bond after she and her newborn baby, born on January 8 of this year, both tested positive for coc aine.
Daniel Bryan, Ward's public defender, calls the statute "badly flawed," albeit with good intent, and vague enough to be overused in the courts. Bryan also takes issue with the cases' assertion of a fetus' status as a person, contrary to federal precedent.
Given that the act was passed as an answer to parents manufacturing methamphetamines in their homes, Mr. Gambril admitted an obvious "close call under the law," hoping for clarification by statute. Mothers avoid jail time by agreeing to go into treatment, Gambril added, insisting that the intent was not to put mothers behind bars