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