Which Patient Gets Priority: Mom or Unborn Baby?

When Alicia Beltran, an expectant mother, went to her prenatal appointment she did what every patient should do – she gave the doctor a full medical history in order to help her provider give her the best care possible. In the course of describing her medical past, Beltran detailed a prior issue with prescription drug addiction. When offered an anti-addiction drug to help her “kick the habit,” Beltran declined, reporting that she had already gotten the issue under control on her own.

Later that same day, however, the 14-week pregnant mom-to-be was handcuffed. A doctor and social worker had accused her of endangering her unborn child when she refused the anti-addiction treatment.

According to The New York Times, the actions of all officials involved were not illegal in Wisconsin, where Beltran resides. In Wisconsin, it is perfectly legal to confine a pregnant woman who is abusing drugs or believed to be abusing drugs that could prove harmful to her unborn child – even though Beltran’s assertion that she was no longer dependent upon nor actively abusing prescription drugs turned out to be true.

Wisconsin isn’t the only state that has a law like this on the books. Minnesota, South Dakota and Oklahoma also have the law in place. Cases like Beltran’s, however, have led many to question the legality of the legislation, saying that it may be unconstitutional because it prioritizes the rights of the unborn child over the rights of the mother.

Drugs and Unborn Children

While Beltran’s case is extreme, the fact of the matter is that a mother’s drug abuse is extremely harmful to the developing fetus. The repercussions of drug abuse during pregnancy not only affect the child but the mother, others in the family, and potentially the community at large if the mother is unable to care for the child after birth.

While the rights of the mother must be protected, it’s also important to recognize the larger issues at hand and the rights of the child as well, who – due to no fault of his own – may lose his life or be forced to grow up facing unnecessary problems if medical professionals don’t intervene during pregnancy. These issues may include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth
  • Physical disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavioral disabilities
  • Birth defects

Which Drugs Are Harmful to Unborn Babies?

If certain over-the-counter medications are not advised for use during pregnancy – medications that are perfectly fine in moderation for most people who are not pregnant – then it stands to reason that all substances that are dangerous for the general population should be completely avoided in pregnancy as well. Everything from legal drugs, like alcohol and prescription medications, to illegal substances, like cocaine and heroin, should never be taken by a woman who is pregnant or suspects she could be pregnant.

When Medical Intervention Is Warranted

If you are, or someone you love is, pregnant and drug or alcohol abuse is a problem, seeking medical attention and being open with the doctor is always the first step. In some cases, drug rehab may be warranted. Certainly, becoming as stable as possible as quickly as possible is always recommended when addiction is an issue but a different sense of urgency exists when a new life hangs in the balance. If you are, or someone you love is, in need of drug addiction treatment, contact us at Axis now and discuss the rehabilitation options available today.