Saturday, June 11, 2022

"Criminalizing Addiction in Motherhood: A Modern Phenomenon"

I continue to be excited to continue to be able to post a lot of recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  In so doing, it is such a pleasure to get to review and highlight great work by OSU law students and recent graduates on so many important and cutting-edge topics.  The title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Jamie Feyko who recently graduated from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  Here is its abstract: 

We have built motherhood into an impossible ideal.  Mothers are expected to do it all, be it all, have it all.  And these unachievable expectations begin before a child is even born.  If something goes wrong during pregnancy, we immediately blame the mother.  This culture of blame becomes even more magnified when mothers struggle with addiction.  Mothers are blamed for struggling with substance use disorders (SUDs), despite modern medicine establishing — definitively and indisputably — that addiction is a disease, not a choice or a moral failing.

Starting in the 1980s, the criminal justice system began a determined effort to criminalize mothers struggling with SUDs.  Drawing on law review articles, legal precedent, and newspaper articles, this paper will explain the relatively modern legal development of criminalizing mothers for struggling with SUDs and contextualize this movement within the evolving cultural beliefs surrounding motherhood and addiction.  This paper will detail the ways in which prosecutors first began filing charges against mothers for exposing their fetuses to drug metabolites in utero, the shaky legal foundations of these early attempts, and how state statutes expanded to provide stronger legal footing for criminalizing mothers with addiction.  The paper will conclude by explaining the ultimate futility of trying to use the criminal system to “deter” mothers from the disease of addiction and highlight policy changes that would be better suited for addressing the problem of maternal substance use disorders.

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