Court of Appeal application in foetal alcohol case

Reposted from Birthrights blog which you can find here:

A forthcoming court case on criminal injuries compensation for a child whose mother drank during pregnancy could pave the way to the criminalisation of pregnant women’s behaviour, Birthrights and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) warned today.

We have applied with bpas to address the court on the case, which we believe could seriously undermine women’s autonomy while pregnant and their freedom to make decisions for themselves.

A council in the North-West of England is seeking to prove that the mother of a six-year-old girl born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) committed a crime under the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 by drinking during pregnancy. If the court were to interpret the law as requested by the council, it would establish a legal precedent which could be used to prosecute women who drink while pregnant. Similar developments in the US have resulted in the incarceration of women. The case is due to be heard at the Court of Appeal later this year.

Pregnant women with addiction problems need rapid access to specialist support services, as do children born with disability caused by drug or alcohol abuse. Birthrights and bpas do not believe that mothers and their babies will be best served by treating pregnant women who need help as criminals.

Viewing these cases as potentially criminal offences will do nothing for the health of women or their babies. As well as undermining women’s ability to make their own choices while pregnant, it is likely to deter those women who do need support from seeking it and put health professionals under pressure to report women to the police. Both the immediate and broader implications of this case are troubling. We should take very seriously any legal developments which call into question the autonomy of pregnant women and right to make their own decisions. Pregnant women deserve support and respect, not the prospect of criminal sanction for behaviour which would not be illegal for anyone else.

If the booze that the pregnant woman drinks carries no explicit warning about the risk to the unborn foetus of drinking alcohol during pregnancy is she responsible or is the manufacturer/supplier?

52 days to go

6 thoughts on “Court of Appeal application in foetal alcohol case

  1. We only need look at the US to see how the extreme criminalisation of alcohol and drug abuse related crime – along with the biggest prison population in the world – has done absolutely nothing to prevent substance abuse. If anything, the policies have exacerbated the problems as films such as The Anonymous People and The House I Live In show really well.

    Thanks for highlighting this Lucy.

    1. Hey LadyHMcB 😉 You are so right. What was the statistic quoted in The Anonymous People 80% of the US prison population? Shocking. Haven’t seen ‘The House I Live In’ so thanks for the heads up and will go take a look now 🙂

  2. Jailing women for this is wrong. It is just wrong. It is unhelpful, because it is not going to help unborn children in any way, because it piles more shame on women with addiction and makes them less likely to seek the help they need, particularly in pregnancy, but that is almost not the point. Because it is just wrong. Women everywhere should oppose this infringement on the rights we have over our own bodies. There should be an absolute outcry.

    1. I agree MTM as does Birthright. There should be an absolute outcry and I suspect it will come but after the precedent has been set with this case 🙁

      1. No need to apologise MTM you weren’t half as ranty as I’m going to be in a post coming up soon!! 😉 xx

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