Advanced search be scared by the idea that drinking alcohol in pregnancy be criminalised?

(40 Posts)
Nessalina Thu 06-Nov-14 11:56:00

Whilst the idea of drinking enough in pregnancy to harm the unborn baby is abhorrent to me, the thought that the rights of a foetus be put ahead of the the rights of the mother scare me. Surely it's a slippery slope and I don't like where it could lead... But then should there be consequences for women that don't care for themselves in pregnancy?

If you haven't seen the story, the Independent article is here:
'Council seeks compensation for a six-year-old girl with 'growth retardation' caused by her mother's alcohol consumption during pregnancy'

(Haven't seen a thread about this, apologies if I'm duplicating!)

hiddenhome Thu 06-Nov-14 11:59:53

No, let them do what they want. It's their body after all. The foetus will have to take its chances.

Bramshott Thu 06-Nov-14 12:01:52

I agree that its a worrying development.

However, as I understand it from what I've heard about this particular case, this is a case where the mother was drinking heavily and was warned repeatedly that she was putting her baby at risk. I suppose in those very narrow circumstances it could justifiable.

Does anyone know what the situation is with declining treatment that is specifically recommended for the foetus during pregnancy? This extreme case is a bit similar to that I suppose.

theposterformallyknownas Thu 06-Nov-14 12:04:22

I can't see what it will achieve.
If a mother is in such a dark place to consume enough to harm her baby, how will turning her into a criminal help anyone.
She will still have drunk to have been prosecuted or arrested. She will still do it anyway and the child will still be affected anyway.
It will make no difference at all.

PopcornFrenzy Thu 06-Nov-14 12:07:41

I think this is more to do with getting compensation so the children that are affected by this have access to funds to support them as oppposed to making the mother a criminal.

If a mother is in such a bad place that she doesn't care what she does to her baby then she is beyond help, what matters is getting help for the youngster affected.

Nessalina Thu 06-Nov-14 12:07:56

Bram - yes, that's just the sort of development that worries me, declining treatment for what may be a perfectly valid reason from the mother's point of view, but the medics being able to legally overrule?

raltheraffe Thu 06-Nov-14 12:08:32

As a recovering addict I can tell you there is lots of free help out there for anyone who wants to quit drugs and/or alcohol.
The issue here is this woman was offered that support and declined. She did not want to quit. As a daughter of a long term alcoholic I know that if someone wants to drink there is jack shit you can do to stop them. I tried for years to no avail and in the end backed off and let her hit rock bottom. Sadly my mum's rock bottom was death.
Criminalising addicts does not work and has never worked. All you do is push the drugs trade into the hands of unscrupulous dealers. Not paying your bills? You can face anthrax being put into your next batch or the air syringe if you threaten to grass them up. Police cannot catch dealers as no-one will talk about it as they face the retribution from the dealers.
The biggest problem with pregnant ladies is SS involvement only starts at about 5 or 6 months, when the damage has already been done. There needs to be early intervention in cases where a mum to be is using. Criminalising drinking mums will just cause them to lie about their habit.

Pootles2010 Thu 06-Nov-14 12:09:02

I don't agree with it at all - women are not incubators ffs. theposter in this case it is being done so that the girl in question can receive compensation, which will help her immeasurably. I feel very very sad for her, but still think its wrong. Very tough case.

Hurr1cane Thu 06-Nov-14 12:19:06

I don't agree with it. As soon as I saw it, I thought that it was ridiculous.

What the mother did was not a criminal offence. She may have been warned that she was risking the baby but there is no proof that she would definitely hurt the baby. Sometimes they escape FAS.

Although I'll be honest I find risking the baby like that horrific, especially as someone who followed the rules and regulations for pregnancy to the letter and my DS was still severely disabled, I can't see how you'd risk a healthy baby by putting things in your system.

That said, it's not a crime, it isn't. If they want to say that the child is entitled to victim compensation they would have to say she was a victim of crime, which she isn't.

They could criminalise things like drinking, smoking, having a cup of coffee, standing anywhere near a smoker, cleaning out litter trays or eating eggs during pregnancy. But they'd have to criminalise every single risk.

I took no risks. But people do. Some people don't know they are pregnant, some are mentally ill and need support, some are addicts and just can't stop and some don't believe that certain things are risky (like having one glass of wine a week or whatever)

They could also use this to seek compensation to the child born when parents knew there was a risk of a genetic disorder. They are taking a risk still. The child didn't ask to be born with that risk, it's the parents 'fault' (this isn't what I believe this is just an example of what they could argue)

They could prosecute or sue women who try to commit suicide while pregnant, they could prosecute or sue for doing a dangerous sport while pregnant, they could prosecute you for having that extra cup of coffee.

It is a very very slippery slope and although I am gutted for the child and don't think very highly of it's mother, I hope the council lose this case

sashh Thu 06-Nov-14 12:22:41

I suppose in those very narrow circumstances it could justifiable.

I disagree, it is never justifiable to put the rights of a foetus before or even on a par with a woman. This is what has happened in Ireland and some South American countries that do not allow abortion.

If you have an ectopic pregnancy in Britain you can be operated on, it is the end of your pregnancy but it will save your life. In some parts of the world you cannot be operated on until the tube actually bursts because operating earlier would damage the foetus.

What a pregnant woman does may be astonishing to others but it is her body.

Excess alcohol can be dangerous to a foetus, no doubt about that but we don't know when the level that is dangerous is reached. In France it is common for a woman to have 1 drink a day throughout pregnancy.

What about unintentional alcohol ingestion? Cough syrup or ripe fruit that contain small amounts?

What about other drugs the mother needs to take to control things such as diabetes or epilepsy?

Or a woman whose body is physically dependent on alcohol? Stopping drinking altogether could kill her and end the pregnancy? The same can be said of drug addicts, smokers anyone who rides a horse, crosses the road or drives a car - all of these things could pose a risk to your pregnancy.

raltheraffe Thu 06-Nov-14 12:25:38

My son was born with a 50/50 risk of a serious genetic disorder. I was offered a specialist type of IVF to mitigate this risk, but declined due to religious reasons. Ds thankfully came out well, but would I be considered a criminal for turning this treatment down?

WooWooOwl Thu 06-Nov-14 12:35:19

The rights of a foetus to not be damaged are more important than a woman's right to drink alcohol in my mind.

Foetuses become people, people that can cost society a lot of money if they are wilfully damaged while they are still unborn.

Women have the right to terminate pregnancies they don't want, I really don't see why they should have the right to knowingly damage a baby that they have chosen to give life to.

If we don't value life that hasn't been born, then we may as well scrap any neonatal testing or treatments that are for the benefit of the baby's physical health rather than the mothers. We can't have it both ways. Women can't complain that they are treated as incubators when they are told they shouldn't drink excessive amounts of alcohol, but still expect their baby to receive any care or attention it needs before it's born.

Let's stop bothering to monitor women if they have reduced movements, stop bothering to test for genetic conditions, stop bothering to try and work out things that could cause allergies or medication that could cause problems if consumed in pregnancy, stop bothering to give women advice about looking after a baby or money to enable them to take care of themselves in pregnancy. After all, a baby doesn't actually matter until it's born. Or does that sound unreasonable?

In the eyes of the state, an unborn baby either matters or it doesn't. Women either have full rights, and the responsibility that goes with that over their pregnant bodies or they don't. I don't think we should be able to pick and choose just because we're women. The right to abortion exists, and that is enough.

MuddyBootsAndPinkCoats Thu 06-Nov-14 12:36:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

primarynoodle Thu 06-Nov-14 12:37:04

its worrying because not only does giving the mother a criminal record seriously increase the risk of her being unable to find a job and the child growing up in a poor household dependant on benefts but possibly a child growing up with mother I prison before its even born

both scenarious fit studies showing children In these environments are far more likely to be on benefits/ have criminal records than if they werent exposed to this

the drinking should be treated aa a health issue and treatment be provided accordingly including courses hammering the dangers home.

Hurr1cane Thu 06-Nov-14 12:38:01

So woowoo. What would be your stance on situations like ralfs? Or what if I chose to have another child, knowing that the one I have has a severe genetic disorder and not knowing the risks of it happening again?

smileybadger Thu 06-Nov-14 12:40:00

hmmm...dont think criminalising will work..but all this its my body thing have chosen to have a baby in your body therefore respect it.its only for a few months and if a glass of wine means so bloody much maybe you should think about how much a baby means to you

WooWooOwl Thu 06-Nov-14 12:44:20

That would be completely different, because you would be knowingly and willfully doing active damage to your children.

raltheraffe Thu 06-Nov-14 12:45:58

I only have one ds. I knew prior to getting pregnant there was a 50/50 risk. DH has it, FIL, BIL and nephew.
I thought long and hard about the IVF but accepting it would have meant turning down several "unhealthy" embryos and I had to decline on religious grounds.

Hurr1cane Thu 06-Nov-14 12:46:52

I would be knowingly and willingly risking giving a genetic disorder to my child.

It isn't definite that if you drink it will affect your child. It's a risk.

It isn't definite that if you vaccinate your child it will cause brain damage, but it's a risk you sign that you're aware of.

It isn't definite that your child will develop a terrible egg allergy but you risk them the first time you give them an egg.

MuddyBootsAndPinkCoats Thu 06-Nov-14 12:47:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

skylark2 Thu 06-Nov-14 12:50:12

I don't understand why these children need compensation.

I mean, I understand why they need extra help and support which costs money. But why does it have to be in the form of compensation? The help and support which kids with ASD, or Down's syndrome, or CF get doesn't come from compensation. I think the whole concept that a disabled kid can only get support if their disability was someone's fault is really quite scary.

And that's quite apart from it criminalising something which there is zero evidence harms the baby in any way at all (i.e. a pregnant mum having a very occasional small glass of alcohol).

SqueezyCheeseWeasel Thu 06-Nov-14 12:50:49

Smiley, you are over simplifying a very complex issue by narrowing down to planned pregnancies and "a glass of wine".

FWIW, I think it is v dodgy ground. Aside from obvious moral issues, how will it be enforced? What about alcohol consumption in women who don't realise they are pregnant? Or those who knowingly consume but are not yet 'showing' and therefore visibly pregnant - how do we 'catch' them? Do we start cross examining all women of child bearing age before serving them drinks? Showing proof of a recent false pregnancy test along with our over 18 ID? Bizarre stuff.

primarynoodle Thu 06-Nov-14 12:51:32

clearly I have to read into it more muddy - I was under the impression it would become a criminal act woops!

but I stand by my point should that be the case...

raltheraffe Thu 06-Nov-14 12:53:02

Agreed if you drink the baby will not definitely get FAS. However drinking and drugs is something the mum to be can change, by accessing support.
It is a tough one for me. I was a drug addict for years, and never had a child because that would have meant inflicting my drug use on a foetus. When I decided I wanted a baby that was enough motivation for me to get clean before getting pregnant.
On a personal level I think using in pregnancy is pretty deplorable. I did not even drink caffeine in pregnancy and tried to eat more fruit and veg. I did everything correct. Think the issue here is the mum to be did not want to quit and when an addict does not want to quit all the support in the world will not change that.

Icimoi Thu 06-Nov-14 12:55:30

I agree with popcorn this case is about getting compensation from a state victim of crime fund, it's not attempting to get the mother sent to prison.

Of course it is, but that doesn't affect the basic point. If this child is entitled to criminal injury compensation, that has to be because she is the victim of a crime, which has to mean that the mother is a criminal. Once that is established, it is indeed the beginning of a slippery slope.

Police have the duty to investigate crimes. Do we really want a situation where hospitals and midwives have a duty to report to the police every time a child is born in a condition which might be attributable to what its mother did in pregnancy? Do we want them to be called in to investigate possible manslaughter charges every time someone has a miscarriage, in case that was caused by the mother failing to take enough care?

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