The US "Fetal Protection" Movement

"The American 'fetal protection' movement is unique among developed and developing nations. While other nations also have children who are born 'at risk' and populations of poor pregnant women whose lives are highly dysfunctional or who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs, only in the United States are these women criminally prosecuted or civilly committed based on their conduct while pregnant.4 Only in the United States do prosecutors take the position that embryos and fetuses should be protected as full human beings while in utero.5 At the same time, the United States stands alone among developed countries in failing to guarantee access to health care to women and children throughout their lives and in failing to provide other economic, legal, and social supports (including treatment for drug and alcohol addiction) in order to increase the chances that women can nurture and provide for their children, as well as reduce the incidence of women's addiction. Almost all the women targeted by American "fetal protection" warriors exist at the very margins of society. In addition to their to alcohol or drug addiction, the overwhelming majority of these women have histories of mental illness and/or mental retardation; there is significant evidence that much of their drug use is an attempt to self-medicate for depression or other illnesses.6 The targeted women are overwhelmingly women of color, and they are almost always poor.7 In many cases, they are victims of childhood sexual abuse and current domestic violence.8"