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Sunday, January 05, 2014

My Story of Pregnancy and Addiction

I’m reposting this story because it illustrates a number of laws in Kansas (and .other states) that seek to punish parents for violating puritanical drug and alcohol laws. Such laws have resulted in parents losing children and families being broken up. In Kansas many parents are taken from their children for using, possessing or selling drugs. Most parents who lose their children for selling drugs are petty drug dealers selling very small amounts or selling or sharing the cost of drugs with friends to get the drugs cheaper. Often these are the sole criteria to remove children. I believe taking children away from a parent punishes the child as much as the parent. Some parents have lost their children for alcohol use or alcohol related crimes, such as certain drunk driving offenses. Using drug and alcohol use alone for removing children from a parent’s home is both unnecessary and mean spirited. This article is different because it focuses on a pregnant woman’s rights. The same type of mean-spirited puritanical laws seems to be used against pregnant women and Rinker is focusing on that.
I can relate to Rinker because I have had problems over the last 8 years with alcohol and a few bad drug habits. -សតិវ អតុ

Lately there have been several stories in the media about women losing their civil and constitutional rights while pregnant. I’m not referring to abortion, which is often in the news thanks to unrelenting anti-choice attacks andunnecessary regulations. In this case, I’m talking about coverage of arrests, incarcerations, and detentions of pregnant women in the name of “fetal rights”—cases in which women who want to carry their pregnancies to term are accused of providing (or potentially providing) an unsafe or toxic environment to their fetuses. Some of the cases involve women who have admitted to using illegal substances prior to their pregnancy or to their knowledge of the pregnancy.
As a woman and a feminist, my belief about my personal autonomy in medical decision making applies to my right to keep or end my pregnancy. Part of that right includes making my own health decisions during that pregnancy: what to eat, whether to exercise and take prenatal vitamins, whether to smoke, drink, or do drugs. I believe these decisions must be mine to make in consultation with my doctor.
To my knowledge there are no cases of diabetics being detained by authorities for eating a candy bar; cancer patients are not shackled if they light up a cigarette and inhale. So why are pregnant women who use drugs or have a history of drug use being arrested and forced into treatment? It comes as a result of gross overreaching by those in authority—a breach of trust in our medical relationships and false, ideologically motivated interpretations of a plethora of anti-choice laws that have served as vehicles for the deterioration of women’s civil rights.
I am a recovering addict and alcoholic. My journey includes a pregnancy in the midst of my addiction; as was the case with many aspects of my life during my active addiction, my pregnancy was unplanned. As I hear these stories of other pregnant women, I cannot help but identify with them.
I hate to feed into the anti-choice perception that all pregnant women are vulnerable and afraid, but I will admit that I did feel very vulnerable and very afraid in my pregnancy. That fear was fed heartily by my addiction. I had never really considered having a child. The pill had enabled me to avoid an unexpected pregnancy since I started having sex in my teens, but at 26 my addictions and my irresponsible, reckless, impulsive behaviors were catching up with me. When you’re fortunate if you remember to eat one meal a day, it’s also easy to forget to renew your birth control prescription. That was just another detail among the many in life that seemingly had ceased to have consequences or meaning.
I had gotten pregnant by my boyfriend of two years and he wanted to see the pregnancy through, though I was much less certain. Before I really had time to process these life-changing events, he was proudly spreading the news to friends and neighbors. I was the pregnant girlfriend by his side, feeling as if I was living the whole thing out in some kind of coma and unable to communicate my most primal fear about the pregnancy to anyone: I was terrified of its implications on my drug and alcohol dependency.
Mind-altering, soul-altering, confidence-boosting, medicating substances had been a part of my life since age 14. I felt addicted to everything I ever tried since the first time I tried it. These things made me feel better than I ever felt without them. After all those years, the thought of removing them from my daily routine was unfathomable.
I put one foot in front of the other and did what I was expected to do as a pregnant person, lacking the enthusiasm expected by society and everyone around me. This included my first prenatal visit. In spite of my lack of confidence in my sobriety, I shared my drug history with the doctor, including the fact that the pregnancy was conceived in the midst of heavy methamphetamine use.
As I talked, I felt hopeful for the first time in my pregnancy experience. I thought this medical professional would provide me with reassurance, help me survive my pregnancy, and assist me in staying sober. But my faith in the integrity of the physician soon shattered. As I continued with the details of my drug and alcohol use, her demeanor turned from trusted professional to judgmental, angry authority figure. She stopped focusing on her clipboard, and her tone became harsh as she peppered me with questions about my drug use.
When it was time for my pelvic exam, as I lay on my back with my feet propped in stirrups, the doctor informed me that my fetus would be “destroyed” if I continued to use cocaine or meth. She said my fetus would suffer unimaginably and that I would be to blame.
Kansas is one of five states that requires physicians to inform pregnant women of the negative effects of drug use. But while the doctor was fulfilling her obligation, she could have done so in a kind and rational way. Instead, she chose to make me feel like a criminal.
After the examination, I was sent to the bathroom to take a drug urinalysis. It felt like an intimidation device: I had already been honest about my use of drugs, so why was a test required?
For the rest click here.

Pix by Food Maters

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