Favorite

Meth madness 

Do you read our blog (www.arkansasblog.com)? You should. We often get the jump on local news. And there’s always plenty of visceral, spur-of-the-moment commentary, by us and readers. Last weekend, the subject was legislation that defines a pregnant mother’s use of an illegal drug as child abuse. I thought it was one of several ill-considered responses — among others were tougher sentences and sequestering of patent medicine from allergy sufferers — to methamphetamine abuse. I predicted the law would effectively criminalize drug addiction in new mothers because the required child abuse reports would inevitably lead to arrests. One of the sponsors, Rep. Robert Thompson, disagreed in a letter we published last week. In it, he — disingenuously, to my mind — omitted the bill’s language about reports to State Police. He also didn’t explain how the bill “provide[s] services to a newborn child,” since it provides only for the ratting out of drug-using mothers. The bill is, in the end, about punishment, not “service.” The drug warriors of the legislature know no other approach. We got the first results last week, when Hot Springs cops slapped two felonies on a woman who’d given birth a few days earlier to twins with drugs in their systems. The cops said the city investigated after a call was made by Children’s Hospital to the State Police, as the new law requires. Hot Springs cops predicted similar arrests in days ahead. I blogged about this in a way uncharitable to Thompson. Defenders responded loudly. They made me out a child abuse coddler, a liar and maybe even a drug abuser myself. I was unrepentant. A fetus is not a child, for one thing. But I also turned to experts quoted in a Chicago Tribune article on the down side of prosecutions of mothers with unhealthy habits. In Utah, calls to a pregnancy risk line where mothers had sought drug counseling dropped to near nothing after high-profile prosecutions of new mothers. The Tribune also noted that, invariably, poor and minority women are targeted for drug-testing more often than well-to-do women. Finally, women who are afraid to seek drug counseling or prenatal care are likely to be more strung out and have sicker babies when they do deliver. I should have saved my breath. The effort to present another perspective brought only more whomps upside my head from blog readers. Drug-using mothers should be in jail, one said. So call me crazy. But I think the legislature should be rational if it’s going to take a punitive, rather than rehabilitative, approach to maternal behavior. According to the Tribune article, 3 percent of delivering mothers use illegal drugs, but 54 percent use harmful legal substances such as alcohol and cigarettes. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a more prevalent problem than meth babies. So punish the heavy drinkers with abuse reports, too. And don’t forget men. There’s some indication that meth use by fathers passes health problems to children. I’m really with the governor. We need to treat drug abusers more like sick people than criminals. Nothing in the new law does that. In our methamphetamine madness, we prefer the simplistic. Spank ’em, just like we do school kids. A Hot Springs mother of two, jailed five days before she could get a bond hearing Monday, stands as proof of the consequences of the law, unintended or not.
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • TGIF

    Here's the Friday open line, plus a roundup of news and comment.
    • Feb 24, 2017
  • Fake news stings Tom Cotton

    Satirist Andy Borowitz invoked the name of U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton in a humor column poking fun at Republicans running from town hall meetings. Maybe a little unfair to Cotton, who DID hold such an event.
    • Feb 24, 2017
  • Price of a free press: Political retribution

    The Trump administration freezes some reporters out of press gatherings. Dejavu all over again for us at the Arkansas Times.
    • Feb 24, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Stand up for Little Rock

    If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Home again

    The plan, formulated months ago, was this: Ellen and I were going to go to Washington for inauguration festivities, then fly out the morning after the balls for Panama City and a long planned cruise to begin with a Panama Canal passage.
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas voters know what they want

    With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trump and Russia

    • By the by - two days after Trump talked about Sweden having problems - there…

    • on February 23, 2017
  • Re: Hating the media

    • I believe in a free press. And I always believed that the mainstream media was…

    • on February 23, 2017
  • Re: Trump and Russia

    • Well, I'm certainly glad that Gene Lyons finally describer himself perfectly: "a daffy old-timer with…

    • on February 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation