Montana Judge Dismisses Drug Charges Against Pregnant Woman

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Montana Judge Dismisses Drug Charges Against Pregnant Woman

By McCarton Ackerman 09/25/14

Judge Jeffrey Langton said prosecuting Casey Gloria Allen would create a "slippery slope" for charging pregnant women for all kinds of "unhealthy" behavior.

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A Montana woman who faced felony drug and child endangerment charges for allegedly taking drugs when she was 12 weeks pregnant has had her case dismissed by a judge.

Casey Gloria Allen, 21, was charged with putting her unborn fetus at "substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death" by ingesting opiates, benzodiazepines, and THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Thorin Geist, Ravalli County deputy attorney, argued that a law passed last year by the Montana legislature, which modified the state’s homicide statutes to include criminalizing conduct related to killing “the fetus of another,” would naturally extend to killing or injuring one’s own fetus.

But District Judge Jeffrey Langton ordered on Monday that the state’s charges be dismissed because the state homicide statutes make no references to “fetus.” Allen’s attorney had argued that moving forward with the charges could create a "slippery slope where the state could arrest and file charges against pregnant women for engaging in any behavior deemed unhealthy to the fetus, which might include ingesting drugs (legally prescribed or not), drinking alcohol, smoking, failing to wear seat belts in a vehicle, not eating well, and exercising too little or too much."

Last April, the Tennessee legislature approved a bill to criminally prosecute addicted pregnant women if their child “is born addicted, is harmed or dies because of the drug.” They would be free of prosecution until the fetus becomes “viable” at 24 weeks, but any charges would be removed if they voluntarily entered a treatment program.

While bill sponsor and State Rep. Terri Weaver called the bill “an intervention,” most major medical associations are opposed to it and believe it will discourage drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking both prenatal care and help for their addiction.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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