The Greatest Source of Wealth: Washington State’s Response to Prenatal Substance Abuse

Rommel P. Cruz, The Greatest Source of Wealth: Washington State’s Response to Prenatal Substance Abuse, 41 Gonz. L. Rev. 1, (2005).

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It  has  been  over  thirty  years  since  President  Nixon  declared  war  on  drugs, naming drug abuse “public enemy  number one in the United States.” It is a war that has  taken  an  enormous  toll  on the  nation’s  resources. Caught in  the crossfire  is the staggering  number of infants born  each  year in  our country who  have been exposed to  the  chemicals  of illicit  drugs,  tobacco,  and  alcohol  prior  to  birth.    In  fact,  an estimated  one  of every  ten  babies  born  in  the  United  States  (roughly  375,000  per year) is exposed to one or more of these chemicals during pregnancy.

There  has  been  a  considerable  amount  of medical  research  on  the  effects  of chemical  substances  on  the  fetus.     It  is undisputed  amongst  the  authorities  that prenatal  substance  abuse  can  be  damaging  and  even  fatal  to  the fetus.   In response, many states  have taken the  initiative  to treat and prevent  this problem.   A number of states  have  established  programs   to  provide,  inter alia, prenatal   care  and  drug treatment to  pregnant women  seeking  state assistance.   Others have  taken a stronger stance,  permitting  the  courts  and treatment  facilities  to  take custody  of the expectant mother  upon her refusal  or  failure  to participate  in drug  treatment.  South  Carolina has taken it a  step further-becoming  the only state  that prosecutes prenatal substance abuse…. Read More

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