The Crack-Baby Myth…Apparently

In an occurrence of “link drift”, I stumbled upon an interesting article at ThinkProgress. Yes, sites like that are usually heavily biased, but looking past that I found some very interesting research.

Tennessee Arrests First Mother Under Its New Pregnancy Criminalization Law“. Well, obviously, nobody makes it a crime to be pregnant, except maybe the Chinese because of their One Child policy. But this isn’t China, this is Tennessee, and a Conservative state like that is usually making laws against ending pregnancy, not being pregnant, so my curiosity was piqued.

Cutting to the chase, that title was wildly misleading; the issue is drug use among pregnant women. “Loyola is the first woman to be arrested under a new law in Tennessee that allows the state to criminally charge mothers for potentially causing harm to their fetuses by using drugs.”

Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), seemed to nit-pick about the law only covering “narcotics”, but that this first arrest under the law had nothing to do with narcotics. Well, there are a couple definitions of “narcotics”. Medically, Paltrow is right, as the arrest was made over cocaine use and cocaine is not (medically) a narcotic (a drug that is given to people in small amounts to make them sleep or feel less pain). However, there is another definition of “narcotic”, and that is “a drug (such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana) that affects the brain and that is usually dangerous and illegal”.

If the intent of the law is to protect babies from drug abuse, do we really need to nit-pick definitions?

But anyway, many medical groups, “including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Public Health Association”, are against the law because of the risk that fear of prosecution will deter women from seeking necessary health services during pregnancy. That’s a fair enough reason–in making laws, to be wise, one needs to think of how people will react to them. And if the intent of the law is to protect children* from the dangers of drug use, then it would seem to be wisdom to favor “healthcare, not handcuffs”.

While a valid concern, I think, that is not the main point I’m interested in.

The important point is that the whole law appears to be based on belief, instead of evidence.

Quite contrary to my expectations, there seems to be no evidence that drug use (in this instance, specifically cocaine) actually has a deleterious effect on fetal development, according to a long-term study that came out last year (actually, it came out in 2011, but was publicized in 2013). Instead, “poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine”, according to the lead researcher, Dr. Hallam Hurt.

Hurt’s study wasn’t the first to find no correlation between in utero drug use and fetal development, but it appears to be the longest-running study of its type.

On the other hand, several studies have found numerous negative health effects associated with smoking (cigarettes) during pregnancy. One study asks “where are the ‘tobacco babies’?”, and answers that they are absent because of societal expectations and beliefs.

Running your life, or worse, other people’s lives, upon unfounded belief can have terrible consequences; people can be put in jail for life because of it, or in the more extreme, be burned at the stake because of it.

As I prepare to hit “publish”, I worry that I’ve missed something. This seems to have been too easy. I’ve spent a morning researching this. I’m just some random guy who has a blog and access to google, and already it seems clear that the Tennessee law (and similar laws elsewhere) is either based on belief rather than evidence (the whole “war on drugs” thing), even though there is evidence available to dispel that belief, or has a deeper, more sinister, motive behind it.



*DISCLAIMER: When I say “protect children”, I am not saying that a fertilized egg is a child (as was mentioned in the article I linked to). I’m saying that potential health risks to the child apply here because the only way there could be health risks to the child is if the baby is born. So, a fertilized egg that doesn’t implant for whatever reason doesn’t count.

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One response to “The Crack-Baby Myth…Apparently”

  1. Black Ops Mikey says :

    I could very well be wrong, but I think Millenials have taken the Boomer thing to the next logical level: Boomers are those who are used to having their say and going their way — they seem to think that by discussing a problem resolves the problem; someone will take care of it if you get it out into the open. And don’t we feel so good being able to contribute to solution success by giving our opinion.

    The dweeb Generation Whine seem to have moved forward with this background by believing that every one of their opinions is valid: Just because they believe a thing makes it true. If they believe in global warming, it must be true; if they believe that pollution from China doesn’t contribute to 30% of the air pollution of San Francisco, it really doesn’t. If they believe that oil is heavier than water because of viscosity and the sun revolves around the earth, then those things must be true also. Opinion trumps logic and science.

    It appears that there are other factors at work here as well. Since, in their puny little minds, opinions determine both what the problems are and how to solve those perceived problems, all we need to do is get the majority to believe in the solution to pass laws enforcing the opinions, and voila, problem solved. Myths make reality through the magic of politics.

    Unfortunately, science and the universe don’t work that way. No one can really levitate themselves through sheer will power, but there are those who think that it can. Too many people don’t really don’t know how things work, but they become the ones who make the silly laws based on ridiculous rubbish ideas.

    Let me give you an example to which some can relate.

    Gun laws are being passed because high school students are breaking out and shooting other students and teachers at school. The solution is to control the guns, right? (I know a teacher in middle school who points out that qualifying teachers for weapons use is not going to solve the problem — by the time you can reach for a weapon, people are already wounded and dead.) So why don’t we work to stop bullying in middle school so that by the time those who are bullied reach high school, they have a way to retaliate?

    Or illegals from Mexico.

    The problem is the people from Mexico want a better life. Is the solution to create chaos by taking living standards lived by the middle class away from them to give it to the influx of Mexicans?

    Mexico is rich with natural resources. There could be plenty for the people there if only… if only the rich from Portugal and Spain who rule and control the country would share the riches they have taken equitably. In fact, it could be that those in United States might start fleeing across the border into Mexico for a better life if there were some accountability. As it is, those working for the drug lords may have as good a life that the average Mexican can have.

    So instead of the President of the United States freely accepting illegals into the country, why doesn’t he firmly make it clear that we aren’t going to be enablers any more by accepting the people the Mexican government has oppressed and make them solve their own problem. It’s better for them and it’s better for us.

    But no, nothing like these suggestions will ever be implemented because feelings and emotions triumph over logic and science. We want to feel good by giving charity to those we’d feel good giving it to and we want to feel good by taking away people’s right by control and manipulation because we want them to feel secure.

    Of course it makes no sense: Politics never makes any sense. You can’t solve scientific problems with politics.

    But logic and facts are far too boring. Watch the eyes glaze over as the details of how things really work is given an exposition. You’ve lost your audience because the sound bite is too long.

    Today, it’s short-sighted, short-term, can’t see beyond the end of your nose because we want the quick fix (put it on our tab, we’ll pay for it later). The CEOs of Corporations pollute and create chaos because they have the attention span of my cat (actually, Mikey [a Russian Blue, also known as Jay Tcat, Jr.] probably has a longer attention span and short term memory). Paying later has turned out to be overly expensive and we can’t come up with the resources now when we could have fixed things long ago if only we had the wit and wisdom to foresee the consequences.

    If nothing else, it’s already clear that the new Tennessee law is doomed to failure because it is not just wrong, but it doesn’t get to the source of the problems it is supposed to fix. The best thing you can say about it is that it’s a solution, even if it is a bad wrong solution. It’s a quick fix that won’t fix anything and another solution will have to be patched on top of it (why start over, when you have Obamacare in place? Just issue another Presidential order…). It’s like if it’s a popular idea, it’s going to work (but it just doesn’t, and worse, it creates more problems of its own). How much money and time are we going to waste to solve the problems this new law creates? Oh well, it has popular support.

    Well, all that’s my opinion, so it’s probably right.

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