Group Created with Sketch.

Pregnant women with substance use disorders continue to be criminalized and stigmatized.

There are increasing efforts to criminalize pregnant women who are at risk for negative birth outcomes, particularly targeting women who use drugs, low-income women, and women of color. According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of December 2017, 24 states and the District of Columbia consider substance use during pregnancy to be child abuse under civil child-welfare statutes, and three consider it grounds for civil commitment.Guttmacher Institute, “Substance Use During Pregnancy As of January 2, 2018,”

Notably, laws that make fetuses a distinct class of victims—ostensibly put in place to protect pregnant women and their fetuses against violence through harsher penalties for their attackers—are instead being used to make women criminally responsible for their fetus’s well-being and establish fetal “personhood.”Criminalizing Pregnancy: Policing Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs in the USA (London: Amnesty International, 2017), 17-20. Such enforcement, however, can be detrimental to the health of pregnant women and often targets the most marginalized groups, including women who are themselves victims of violence.National Advocates for Pregnant Women, “Pregnancy and Drug Use: The Facts,”