Pubdate: Fri, 10 Nov 2000
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Amarillo Globe-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166
Fax: (806) 373-0810
Authors: William H. Sewald, Virgil Van Camp


What'S Next Step? A Police State?

To The Left

By William H. Seewald

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide in a landmark case this year, Ferguson 
vs. South Carolina, the constitutionality of a South Carolina law allowing 
the arrest of pregnant crack cocaine users who, without their permission, 
are tested for drug use when seeking medical care.

This one's troubling for several reasons, not least of all the ongoing 
erosion of the Fourth Amendment, our one-time constitutional protection 
against unreasonable search and seizure.

The likelihood of actually protecting any children is much less evident in 
this law than is the presence of simply one more of the so-called Right to 
Life movement's ceaseless efforts to support any legal doctrine that trumps 
a woman's constitutional protections in favor of the fetus. So far the 
courts have ultimately refused to do that.

There's considerable evidence that alcohol abuse is much more debilitating 
than cocaine so far as the fetus is concerned. In the interest of brevity, 
we shall sidestep the issue that this is another of the cocaine laws having 
a disproportionate, unjust impact on black mothers.

If the objective really is to protect children, criminalizing addiction and 
compromising the doctor-patient relationship by demanding that medical 
professionals become law-enforcement agents makes the likelihood of 
constructive intervention even more remote. It simply ensures that mothers 
and their children will do without medical care rather than become ensnared 
in the tactics of a police state.

Since the days of the Nixon administration, including particularly 
unenlightened policies of the current administration, America has persisted 
in criminalizing the medical problem of addiction. We build more prisons 
and fill them up with drug abusers, spending a fraction on treatment that 
we spend on law enforcement in the "war on drugs."

Right here in Texas, our Gov. Dubya, proving that he is in considerable 
personal denial about the realities of addiction, has presided over the 
elimination of pilot programs started in the Texas Department of 
Corrections - ones proven to work in changing addictive behavior. "Lock em 
up!" - that's the ticket if Daddy can't intervene, or a lawyer to get the 
record expunged isn't an option.

If we actually ever demonstrate a national commitment to protecting 
children and doing something about drug addiction beyond pandering to 
stereotypes, we will first of all ensure that every child is a wanted 
child. Teaching the realities of parenting and the necessary skills, family 
planning, and birth control are the keystones of such a commitment, not 
police arrests.

Conservatives are right when they talk about personal responsibility and 
demanding cooperation - even a quid pro quo - from recipients of aid. But 
those are unrealistic expectations when government perpetuates the 
problems, denying birth control to sexually active children, prohibiting 
federal funding of abortions for poor women and failing to ensure that all 
schools have adequate sex education programs.

Locking up addicts, criminalizing medical problems and hewing to programs 
designed to better serve the denial system of parents than the real needs 
of children doom us to ever-increasing numbers born into distress and 
ever-bigger prison bills. We're just as divorced from reality as the crack 

William H. Seewald can be contacted in care of the Amarillo Globe-Times, 
P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, Texas 79166, or ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Children's Bill Of Rights Might Help

To The Right

By Virgil Van Camp

The war on drugs probably has had more adverse affect on our civil rights 
than any other government action in our history. The effort to banish the 
very real scourge of substance abuse from our society has filled our 
prisons with nonviolent offenders and extended police powers to dangerous 

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear a drug case that has troubling 
constitutional implications about a broad spectrum of the Bill of Rights. 
It involves women arrested in hospitals for drug abuse detected as part of 
the admissions and treatment process.

These women had routinely signed consent forms presented to them granting 
that test results could be used in this fashion. The fact that many of the 
patients were from the bottom end of social and economic classes and many 
were minorities has some bearing on the issue.

How often have you signed without reading, under the same conditions, forms 
that were handed to you?

So far, there can be little discussion among right-thinking folk about this 
practice. It's wrong.

However, like most of life's problems, there are enough shades of gray to 
paint a battleship. The case that the Supremes will hear has to do with 
pregnant women. There is now a third party, the fetus, who might or might 
not be a human being or have rights, depending on the circumstances.

On the one hand, abortion has been declared a right at all stages of 
pregnancy. Even partial-birth abortion has been found legal. Yet, when the 
fetus takes its first breath, it becomes a human and supposedly is 
protected by the law that governs the rest of us, particularly laws 
pertaining to child abuse and neglect. The arrests in question also are 
justified by South Carolina's laws against child endangerment and 
distribution of drugs to a minor.

Society has a real and vital obligation to protect newborns. Babies who are 
born addicted have a very poor start in life, mentally and physically. They 
almost always will become wards of the foster care system, either because 
they are abandoned by their mother or from later neglect. Jail during 
pregnancy might prevent babies being born addicted, but starting life in 
prison doesn't appear to be a good alternative.

Possibly what we need is a children's bill of rights: to be wanted and 
loved; to have two stable parents; to have the best prenatal care and a 
supportive community.

I might be accused of being a Nazi, but maybe there should be some program 
to prevent such women from having babies. Before all the pro-life and 
anti-birth control groups get on my case, let me make this suggestion:

Sign up to adopt a few crack babies and other kids in foster care. When all 
have loving homes, then organize to promote your political agenda.
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