We must resist the moral attack on women who use drugs during pregnancy

Andrew Selous MP recently asked the Secretary of State for the Home Office whether it is an aggravated offence for pregnant women to use cannabis, ecstasy, heroin and other illegal or street drugs.

This is a shameful attempt to shame, stigmatize and criminalize women for their actions during pregnancy. Furthermore, its focus on illegal drugs rather than alcohol and smoking indicates this is clearly a moral and shaming attack on women who use illicit drugs.

I do not want to fall into the trap of describing all women who use drugs during pregnancy as vulnerable, but many are, and some are amongst the most vulnerable in our society who need our support not condemnation. My experience is that often no one is more critical of their drug use during pregnancy than the women themselves.

This is a fundamental attack on women’s rights and is the start of a slippery slope if it gains support. If you think I am over-reacting then let me remind you that in 2014 a local authority in North-West England tried to claim criminal injuries compensation maintaining that a mother who drank heavily had criminally poisoned her child. The Court of Appeal eventually ruled that a child born with foetal alcohol syndrome is not legally entitled to compensation. On this occasion the courts upheld the rights of women over the rights of the unborn child, however we must be ever vigilant to ensure this remains the case.

I commend and thank Nick Hurd MP and the Government for standing up for the rights of women in his reply to this question.

“The Government is determined to protect vulnerable women from drug misuse. Advice about alcohol and drugs is available to pregnant women as part of their routine antenatal care. Pregnant women who misuse alcohol or drugs will be put in contact with a midwife or doctor who has special expertise in the care of pregnant women with alcohol or drug problems. They will be able to refer them to an alcohol or drug treatment Programme and other organisations that can help

The response indicates a clear and welcome Government policy of help not stigma, a far cry from the scary agenda of moral judgement from a few years ago.

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