The Criminalization of Bad Mothers

A new chemical endangerment law in Alabama, originally designed to protect children from meth labs, is now being used to prosecute mothers who used drugs during their pregnancy:

“Emma Ketteringham, the director of legal advocacy at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a New York-based reproductive-justice group, has been following Kimbrough’s case closely. She has drafted ‘friend of the court’ briefs for Kimbrough signed by groups like the National Organization for Women-Alabama and the American Medical Association. She argues that applying Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law to pregnant women ‘violates constitutional guarantees of liberty, privacy, equality, due process and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.’ In effect, she says, under Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law, pregnant women have become ‘a special class of people that should be treated differently from every other citizen.’ And, she says, the law violates pregnant women’s constitutional rights to equal protection under the law. Ketteringham also recruited two prominent Alabama lawyers, Jake Watson and Brian M. White, to take Kimbrough’s case pro bono. ‘I love babies, too, but I don’t like locking up their mamas,’ Watson told me.”

Published: Apr 25, 2012
Length: 23 minutes (5,763 words)
Read the story