Alabama Prosecutor Targeting Pregnant Women Who Test Positive for Drugs

By John Lavitt 11/14/14

District Attorney Brian McVeigh has prosecuted several woman for failing drug tests, though he has given them a chance to work their way back to sobriety.

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Alabama prosecutors are now pursuing criminal cases against women testing positive for drug use while pregnant.

District Attorney Brian McVeigh explained that the move reflects changes in case law. Prosecutors are taking a tough page from colleagues in other parts of Alabama, like Etowah County. In Etowah County, authorities announced a tougher stance against pregnant women abusing drugs. From a legal perspective, taking drugs while pregnant is known as chemical endangerment of a child.

Rather than imprisoning a mother-to-be and taking the child away once the baby is born, McVeigh said prosecutors will allow the women to work their way back to sobriety. In Etowah County's chemical endangerment cases, women who are charged attempt to find the path of long-term recovery by working with Alethia House, a Birmingham-based facility that treats pregnant mothers with drug problems.

"If they are willing to get the prenatal care and stay off the drugs, we can work to reduce or dismiss the charges…We just want to make sure the child gets as much time in the womb without being exposed to these toxins," said McVeigh. "(What was happening) was terrible. We would have the mother show up in an ER, and both her and the child would test positive for cocaine, meth, or something else.”

Over the past two years, McVeigh’s office has charged nine women with chemical endangerment following the birth of children who tested positive for drugs. The district attorney’s ultimate goal is to protect children while they are in the womb and sharing the blood supply of the mother. At this point, the level of danger when a mother chooses to abuse drugs is beyond consideration and must be prevented.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.