Pubdate: Wed, 20 Jun 2001
Source: Sun News (SC)
Copyright: 2001 Sun Publishing Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: Letter published in the Myrtle Beach edition of
the Sun News.


Re. J. Gregory Hembree's essay [The Sun News, June 6]. Prosecutor
Hembree's commitment to holding pregnant women accountable for
lifestyle choices is no doubt well-intended, but his argument is
fundamentally flawed. Zero-tolerance drug laws drive use underground,
compelling individuals suffering from chronic addiction, pregnant or
otherwise, to avoid drug treatment. Would alcoholics seek help if
doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Would
putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and saddling them
with criminal records prove cost-effective? The Regina McKnight case
is preceded by the Ferguson case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled against the drug testing of pregnant women on constitutional
grounds. There are compelling health arguments to be made as well. If
the invasive practice had continued, the threat of criminal sanctions
would discourage pregnant women who use drugs from seeking prenatal
care. This would only increase maternal and infant mortality and
morbidity. Alcohol, incidentally, causes the greatest number of and
most severe birth defects. It kills more people annually than all
illegal drugs combined. If health outcomes determined drug laws
instead of cultural norms, alcohol and tobacco would both be illegal,
and marijuana, a relatively harmless drug incapable of causing an
overdose death, would not. The hypocritical war on some drugs only
compounds the problem.

Robert Sharpe
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
Washington, D.C.
Web site:
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