Pubdate: Sat, 27 Mar 1999
Source: The Post and Courier (SC)
Section: Letters To The Editor
Copyright: 1999 Evening Post Publishing Co.


I am writing in response to the March 15 article regarding a study linking
mothers who smoke cigarettes while pregnant and criminal behavior in their
children. Studies such as these without regard to social class, home
environment and other similar factors are highly questionable.

Publication of this article is reminiscent of the media hype on the
so-called "crack baby" that began in the 1980s and continues today. The
cocaine "studies" claiming to find almost universal harm were found to be
inconclusive or not based on empirical scientific research that must include
all factors affecting a child's health.

Publication of such misinformation leads to horrible, inhumane incidents
like when women were taken away to jail - still bleeding - after giving
birth to children - often healthy - who nevertheless tested positive for
cocaine. Today Whitner vs. State of South Carolina sets the stage for
arresting any pregnant woman who exposes her viable fetus to any risk of
harm - including risks posed by cigarette smoking. (In fact, the risks of
harm from smoking cigarettes are far better established and far more
widespread than those of cocaine.)

Addiction, whether to nicotine or cocaine is a disease that should be
addressed as a health-care issue. We need more treatment centers, not more
prisons. Until we treat rather than punish, we will fill the prisons with
addicts of all kinds, women will avoid getting prenatal care (it is the
health care providers who report them) and real solutions will be evaded.

And the children that we are supposed to be protecting? Check the Feb. 19
article about the rise in infant mortality in 1997 - the year following the
widely publicized Whitner decision.

Wyndi Anderson
South Carolina Advocates for Pregnant Women 
171 Church St., Suite 160 

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