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

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.

 

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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104 comments

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7:15AM PDT on Sep 7, 2014

@ 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 ?

3:13AM PDT on Sep 7, 2014

And the hits keep comin'!

10:03PM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

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

7:22PM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

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

7:08AM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

sigh

6:20AM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

ty

3:38AM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

Noted

11:03PM PDT on Sep 5, 2014

Thank you

8:13PM PDT on Sep 5, 2014

This is just ludicrous. What are they going to do next? Monitor every pregnant woman's behaviour and habits, keep them under surveillance 24/7? Personhood statute be damned, we are not living in a movie, nor are we living in a concentration camp. This is 2014, not The Dark Ages.

7:17PM PDT on Sep 5, 2014

Question: Are they going to also charge the father of the child? Did he care that he might impregnate this addict? (It takes two to tango.)

The authorities just don't get it. The woman is most likely an addict. Treat the addiction, don't blame the women. Most likely she didn't intend to get pregnant and hurt a child on purpose. She is not able to manage her own affairs! or anyone else's if she is an addict!

I have never taken drugs, but I have a family member who has done so, and have been around enough addicts to know that they are not capable of even taking care of themselves properly, never mind anyone else.....a child included. There are nowhere near enough treatment centres to help them either!

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