AZ Law states than drug use in pregnancy is not child abuse

  1. From the Az Republic 08/23/02
    In 10 short days of life, a cuddly bundle of joy with a beautiful name turned into a crinkly bag of death.

    Anndreah Robertson's death was senseless and outrageous. To say that it shouldn't have happened doesn't do justice to the series of bad decisions that caused it.

    Anndreah's mother is a cocaine addict who admitted to smoking crack cocaine on the day of delivery. Her grandmother, who takes care of Anndreah's two small brothers and to whom Anndreah was entrusted, also smokes crack cocaine.

    "The use of cocaine or drugs is not in itself abuse," says Anna Arnold, the assistant director of the division of Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Economic Security. Abuse, she says, is tied to a child's condition, for example, how well-fed and clothed the child is and whether there's physical abuse.

    Anndreah's mother, Demitres Robertson, is in jail without bond, accused of murder and two counts of child abuse - and pregnant again. Anndreah's grandmother, Lillian Butler, is charged with two counts of child abuse.

    St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center followed procedure and kept Anndreah for three days to cleanse her system of cocaine. They notified Child Protective Services. And they leveled with Anndreah's mother: The baby would die if she were exposed to cocaine again.

    She was, and she did. An autopsy concluded that Anndreah died of complications from cocaine exposure and dehydration. The pathologist ruled her death a homicide. A witness alleges that Demitres Robertson and Butler smoked "large quantities of cocaine together" in the presence of Anndreah.


    This was a beautiful, healthy baby at one time, that actually died of NEC due to exposure to second hand crack. I am just sick over it.
    In Az, where we do not consider inutero drug use child abuse, what can we do to protect out patients.
    Would prosecuting these addict mothers result in more "garbage can babies"?
    How can we convince child protective services that they are not "saving" a baby by placing him with the druggie mother's mother. Meticulous charting was done on this child, but it didn't help.
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  2. 50 Comments

  3. by   Aussienurse2
    So let me get this straight...if we give a child drugs after it is born and that child dies it is homicide, but if we force it onto a child in utero it's not???? Once again the leagle eagles defeat me.
  4. by   JailRN
    Saddens me that we are becoming a nation of drug users. Our children are the statistics. (((((hugs))))) for the nurses who are able to care for these precious little ones. I couldn't.
  5. by   Motivated, SN
    Please contact your state Department of Health and Social Services office (not your county run agency). This may not be totally accurate; could be the worker you talked to just didn't want to do his/her job. I am a Maternal/Child Health Specialist, former Case Manager for a women's treatment facility. Although what you were told might "technically" be true as to how your laws read, there are not many "functioning" crack addicts, who are able to appropriately feed, clothe and care for their children.
    Crack is a wicked drug and becomes all-consuming; NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. Our laws here, don't necessary prosecute pregnant women for drug use. All of the women that I work with have not been "charged". However, many of them have lost children to the child welfare system and are working toward getting them back. Many have their babies while in treatment and allowed to keep those as long as they are complying with treatment and staying clean. Many have turned their lives around and have gotten their other children back; are working and staying clean. If you find out that your laws truly do not consider in utero drug exposure abuse; please use your nursing knowledge of the potential risks to these babies to get your laws changed. Good luck.
  6. by   pebbles
    Sad as this sounds, I support that law. A woman's body is her own. If you outlaw drug use during pregnancy to protect the "baby" (FETUS), where does it end? That outlook outlaws abortion completely, which many people have fought long and hard to ensure that women have the right to.... Also consider the slippery slope... women with poor nutritional habits endanger their fetus also. Here come the vegetable police? I don't think so.

    Laws protecting women's rights while they are pregnant do not affect the states right to take away the child when it is born. A woman has the right to have control over her own body, even when she is pregnant. Period. Even people who have addictions have basic rights such as these. What are you gonna do, lock up every addict in the country? The jails are already overflowing, and it does little good. There are ways to combat these problems without cracking down the law.
  7. by   ceecel.dee
    If your pregnant, it's a BABY!
  8. by   Motivated, SN
    Pebbles,

    Thank you for responding to my post. I am a little confused though. I did not advocate to prosecute pregnant, drug using women. I also don't think "vegetable police" are necessary for pregnant women with inadequate diets. Many of my pregnant women have poor diets due to their substance abuse. We feed them and teach them how to eat nutritionally. In my opinion, there is also a world of difference between abortion "terminating a fetus" and helping a woman stop exposing her fetus to toxic, illegal and legal substances; but that's for another thread. Due to the nature of addiction, placing a woman's children in foster care does not always make a difference; because the addiction is stronger than her maternal bond with her children. However, by placing the children in foster care or kinship care (with relatives who are not using drugs) it gives the children a chance to have a semblance of normalacy; as well as gives the women a chance to be "coerced" into treatment. Once a woman is in treatment and has a chance to detox, her head becomes clearer. She has the opportunity to see clearly what is at risk. She also has the opportunity to change her circumstances and start a new life with her family. I am not against these women. I work for and with them. Of the last 25 pregnancies, not one of them has had a premature labor or abruptio placentae; both of which are well known risk factors in cocaine abuse. Three of the babies were low birth weight; but the mothers were polysubstance abusers and came into treatment in their third trimester. The rest of the babies were healthy. I ADVOCATE FOR THE WOMEN GETTING TREATMENT so that they have the chance to be good parents to their children; not exposing them to drug use and all of the things that go with it.
  9. by   live4today
    I advocate for programs to be established to "imprison"...if you will...all pregnant women who are drug addicts UNTIL their babies are born. This "period of confinement" will protect the babies from further drug abuse from its mother. That period of confinement shoud also be utilized in educating those moms, providing therapy for those moms to help them face why they do drugs, etc., etc.. When the moms are released from the facility, the babies should NOT be allowed to leave with the mother IF her confinement proved useless.....meaning, she showed no improvement in mental or emotional stability during that time that would suggest she's capable of caring for an infant.

    P.S. I am NOT suggesting pregnant women be placed IN PRISON with other criminals.......but placed in a SEPARATE TREATMENT FACILITY specifically designed to educate and house pregnant women who are drug addicts.
    Last edit by live4today on Aug 27, '02
  10. by   pebbles
    Originally posted by cheerfuldoer
    P.S. I am NOT suggesting pregnant women be placed IN PRISON with other criminals.......but placed in a SEPARATE TREATMENT FACILITY specifically designed to educate and house pregnant women who are drug addicts.
    Thats a pretty fine hair to split, imo. Imprisoning someone in nicer surroundings is still a prison. What you suggest is illegal and unconstitutional.

    Perhaps if facilities were to be set up that women could go to voluntarily... some drug and alcohol rehab facilities DO confine people at their own will - a contract is signed, I think.

    But you know what? Convicted criminals in the general prison population have ample access to drugs of their choice - why should it be different for pregnant females? People with an addiction will find a way to fuel the addiction, no matter what. No law, no "confinement" will stop that. And years of experience with addictions and programs such as AA have shown us that it's the person's own work that will heal the addiction. You can have support and "programs" coming out your nose, but the person with the addiction has to want it badly enough to stick with it, and do the internal work and soul searching that brings healing.

    I say protect the children after they are born by getting them out of the entire situation. Too much leeway is given to mothers who want to keep their kids, despite being unsuitable. Kids placed with a family member who may be only marginally better, or who lets the mom have access to the kids anyway. Less law enforcement and more social work is needed. More and better foster care. Perhaps more kids need to be premanently removed from the mothers custody....

    But to try to go after the mother while she is still pregnant to protect the kid infringes on her basic rights as a human, and I cannot abide that. Yes, to most of us it is unconscionable to be doing things that would harm the baby while you are pregnant. Sitting in judgement on others does not entitle you to take away others rights. Courts have ruled time and time again that the fetus does NOT have rights that supercede the rights of the adult mother. There are good reasons behind those rulings.

    Respectfully,
    -Pebbles
  11. by   live4today
    Originally posted by pebbles

    Thats a pretty fine hair to split, imo. Imprisoning someone in nicer surroundings is still a prison. What you suggest is illegal and unconstitutional.

    Respectfully,
    -Pebbles
    Pebbles.....I acknowledge your outlook on this situation. It's your right and a privilege to share your opinion on how you would handle this type of situation.

    However....as for me....I stick to my original plan of action.....don't really care if it is being seen as 'illegal'. Why?????? Because when it comes to the protection of human life from conception to adulthood........I'd be all over it in a heartbeat.

    Adults have choices.......BABIES...CHILDREN...TEENS DON'T!!! :kiss
  12. by   Motivated, SN
    pebbles, you are 100% right.

    the person with the addiction has to want to change; and not all of them do. our facility technically is "voluntary"; the women can withdraw from treatment at any time; just like in the hospital. but then, they may be choosing to give up their children or face other consequences; which life is full of. they also get weekend passes and go to outside meetings. they have the opportunities to use if they want to. but i disagree with waiting until the children are born to do something. by then it may be too late. the beginning of this thread is an example.
  13. by   Anaclaire
    I've got 2 cents to throw in:

    In a perfect world, paper laws would make everything "OK". I sure do wish ours was a perfect world!

    I've taken care of too many babies whose Mom's were cocaine addicts and did cocaine right up to the day of delivery... leading to placental abruptions where the babies bled out and ended up so hypoxic that they had multiple organ failure, cerbral palsy, and severe mental retardation, etc. The cocaine use is very highly correlated with incidence of abruption. The little ones start out life in last place in this rat race we call life... because of the choices their Mom's made.

    Our constitution gaurantees us freedom of speech... to a point. That point comes when the words being said are deemed to "incite a riot". At that point, freedom of speech changes into breaking a law. The riot could cause innocent people to be harmed. It seems to me that a Mom taking cocaine during pregnancy is taking her right to treat her body as she wants past the limit of the law... where her "freedom" is bordering on causing a riot in her womb--- harming a tiny, innocent person.

    I'm in FULL SUPPORT of the woman's RIGHT TO CHOOSE what to do with her fetus WHEN THE CHOICE DEALS WITH ABORTION. I'm not in support of a woman inflicting potentially life threatening harm to her innocent fetus. Even when the babies survive they most often show long term effects with learning disabilities or other deficits. I consider Moms abusing alcohol are in the same boat as the drug abusers--- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is absolutely life shattering to the child.

    I don't believe jail is the answer either. I think a mandatory inpatient setting where they can be observed constantly, fed nutritious meals, given counselling, and given HIV medications if needed, and shown love from strangers called nurses would be a much better idea. After delivery, if Mom wants to return to her old ways and let her baby be raised by family members or foster parents, fine... but she should be highly encouraged... maybe even bribed... to have a tubal ligation or a long term contraceptive administered. Of course all this costs MONEY--- and in that perfect world I yearn for there would be ENOUGH money to house these Moms and care for them appropriately. BIG SIGH!

    So flame me... I'm a big girl... I can take it.:wink2:
  14. by   BBnurse34
    Motivated, you sound like you have a good success rate with your patients and helping them overcome addiction issues. Unfortunately in Az at the hospital mentioned in the arcticle, they do not. We get "frequent fliers".Most drug using women have had other children under similar conditions.
    The baby, Anndreah had two siblings that were born under the same circumstances (for those grimacing at confidentiality issues, it is public knowlege- in numerous newspapers).
    Yes, the hospital does make refferals to CPS and social services sets up programs and rehab to try to keep the couplet together. It just isn't working.
    Also, Catholic hospitals don't do elective sterilization or any birth control counseling.
    I am not sure what the solution is, but in Az we sure need one.

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