Montana Charges Woman with “Criminal Endangerment” at Just 12 Weeks Pregnant

Filing additional charges against pregnant women who use drugs has become a growing trend across the nation, and Montana is now getting into the act. But as women are being charged earlier and earlier in pregnancy, advocates are beginning to ask where exactly are police getting the information to file their charges and how can these new pregnancy-based crimes effect whether a person decides to carry to term or not?

A young woman in Hamilton, Montana is being charged with criminal endangerment of a child, a felony charge, for testing positive for opiates and other drugs. The woman, Casey Gloria Allen, is just 12 weeks pregnant, and still in her first trimester. According to the local news, Allen has been arrested on three different felony drug charges in less than a year, and tested positive for narcotics just at the end of August.

“The reality for some of these women is the need for drugs is stronger than any maternal instinct they have,” Ravalli County deputy attorney Thorin Geist told the Ravalli Republic.

Local reproductive rights advocates feel that the case has left a lot of questions unanswered, such as how the police knew she was pregnant and whether she consented to either drug testing or pregnancy testing in the first place.

“How did the court system know she was pregnant?” questioned Montana activists Lynsey Bourke and Emily Likins in a press release. “Dating a pregnancy is very specific, so Allen either told them, the state dated the pregnancy for her, or her doctor reported her to the department of health and human services. If we want pregnant women to obtain prenatal care and drug-treatment therapies, they have to trust that a trip to the doctor won’t end with the police at her doorstep.”

The idea that Allen’s doctor may have in fact notified the police isn’t far-fetched, and was exactly the scenario that Tennessee civil and reproductive rights supporters worried would play out in Tennessee after the state passed a law that characterized pregnant drug users as committing “misdemeanor assault.” In Wisconsin, a woman who confessed to former drug use to her doctor was arrested and forced into a treatment center far from her home under the guise of protecting the fetus, and Indiana toyed with the idea of mandatory drug testing of every pregnant person.

There are a number of issues with creating new, separate and more severe punishments that are doled out to women specifically for the act of doing something illegal while she is pregnant, such as the obvious fact that pregnancy crimes are specific to those who have a uterus and are in and of themselves the epitome of gender discrimination. That fact becomes more and more clear the earlier into a pregnancy that police charge a pregnant person. After all, did Allen know she was pregnant? Did she intend to continue the pregnancy? How can someone be charged for committing a crime against a “person” that she either might not have known existed or had no intention of giving birth to?

And that, right there, is the real problem that the pro-life movement has created when they began to create “personhood” as a protected being from the moment of conception. By promoting a series of laws that punish a pregnant person by granting legal rights to the embryo or fetus, they may believe that they are putting into place a longterm strategy for no exceptions abortion bans and medical ethics that sees a second “patient” from the moment of conception, but in the short term, they are pitting pregnant people against their own pregnancies, and leaving them no option but to terminate that pregnancy in order to avoid stiffer penalties from law enforcement.

There are a number of questions that need to be answered in Allen’s “criminal endangerment” case. But the most important question may be how early into a pregnancy police are willing to charge a person for not adhering to her “maternal instincts” as Deputy Attorney Geist so eloquently put it.

If the police are now in charge of enforcing “maternal instinct,” there are going to be a lot of people filling up our jails.

 

Photo credit: Thinkstock

106 comments

Carole C.
Carole Campbell1 years ago

Women who take drugs while pregnant give birth to drug addicts. They addict the babies. The babies have to go through drug withdrawal. They suffer the same symptoms as any addict. If a woman takes drugs during her pregnancy, and has an addicted baby, she should be required to A) go through a rehab program and B) In order to prevent another birth of another addicted baby, she should be fitted with an IUD. The babies are innocent victims. And they require intensive care in a hospital for three or four months, usually at taxpayers' expense. This can be, and should be prevented.

Felicia D.
Felicia D.1 years ago

If we're going to go down the road of endangering fetuses by using drugs then men have to be called on the carpet for using drugs while being potential fathers. Drugs, bad diet, lack of sleep, tight underwear (seriously) and injuries from sports all have an impact on the health of sperm. Since sperm are half the fertilized egg equation then men should not be exempt from scrutiny! Men should be constantly tested for drug use, should tailor their diet to keep their sperm at optimum health, get plenty of sleep, wear boxers (or go commando) and refrain from any activity which might damage their testes or otherwise impact their ability to impregnate women. This would include having to ride horses and bicycles side saddle, of course. Think this is nuts? Well, of course it is! So is the CRAP that is passing for "caring" for women and fetuses in this country!

Ernest Roth
Ernest R.1 years ago

@ Cecily W. "offer women and men aged 18-40 (or so) a substantial incentive (like in the U.S. $10,000) to accept permanent contraception after the birth of the first child--or zero if the person prefers". Now you're talkin" ! I personally would prefer compulsory sterilization and a great place to start would be with women producing a drug addicted child. Our overpopulated world does NOT need children conceived by an addict using sex to get drugs. Causing an innocent baby to be drug addicted [including fetal alcohol syndrome] at birth is a clear violation of their civil rights. Don't you agree Sherry ?

A F.
A F.1 years ago

And the hits keep comin'!

M.N. J.
M.N. J.1 years ago

But The Handmaid's Tale is still being shelved in the fiction section.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams1 years ago

When will they get out of the dark ages????????????

Margie Szelmeczka

sigh

Aud nordby
Aud nordby1 years ago

ty

Val M.
Val M.1 years ago

Noted

Nyack Clancy
Nyack Clancy1 years ago

Thank you