Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
Tennessee is waiting to see if its governor will sign a law which would hold pregnant women criminally accountable for drug use. If a baby is harmed by his mother's drug use, then under this law, the mother may be charged with criminal assault, with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Pro-lifers. Does this sound like Tennessee is getting tough to save babies' lives? Then think about what will actually happen if a law like this gets passed. Yes, we hate the idea that women are harming their unborn babies. Yes, we hate the idea that women are harming themselves with (already illegal, already prosecutable!) drug activity. We want to use any means necessary to protect innocent people.
But imagine for a moment actually being one of these mothers, pregnant, addicted, out of control.
There is not an addict alive who loves to be addicted. There is not an addict alive who wakes up thinking, "I love being enslaved! Love what my life has become! Love, love, love what I'm doing to my baby, and I can't wait to see her going through withdrawl in the NICU." And there is not a pregnant woman alive who thinks, "If I go to my prenatal appointment today, my doctor will test my blood, report me to the police, and I will go straight from the hospital to prison. Taxi!"
Think, pro-lifers. If it's illegal for women to give birth to a baby harmed by drugs, then women will do something legal: they will destroy the evidence.
Abortion is legal in Tennessee -- although it is not free for people on welfare, which means that the back alley abortionists won't miss a chance to offer cut rate deals to women who are too coked out to protest when their uteruses get perforated or their arteries get nicked. The law provides an out for pregnant women who seek help for their addiction -- but drug treatment centers are few and far between, and the law doesn't include funding for more services for addicts. You don't have to feel especially tender hearted about pregnant addicts to realize that the threat of prison is simply not going to work. This is a dreadful law, justifiably despised by pro-choicers, pro-lifers, and anyone who has some inkling of how human beings actually behave under pressure.
Pro-lifers, what do we want? We want women to be cared for, not afraid of their doctors. Want women to be able to find help when they want it. We want babies to be born alive. We want babies, no matter what their physical problems, to be cared for by people who are willing to love them no matter what their mothers have done. We want to give mothers a reason to improve their lives, not a reason to delve deeper into despair.
Not all problems can be solved. There is no single piece of legislation out there that will magically bring drug addicts to their senses, magically frighten them onto the right path. But what we have here is a single piece of legislation that will almost certainly lead to more pain, more suffering, more death. It's painful even to have to spell this out, but here we are: a law that will lead to pain, suffering and death is not a pro-life law.