Last week, Big Horn County Attorney Jay Harris announced that his office would pursue a “crackdown policy” against pregnant women who use alcohol or drugs. According to the Billings Gazette, Harris plans to secure restraining orders forbidding such women from consuming substances, then jail them on contempt-of-court charges if they continue, “in order to incapacitate the drug- or alcohol-addicted expecting mother.”
I welcome this policy. If you ask me, pregnant women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol have had it too easy for too long. Now that they face the possibility of jail time, they will surely stop drinking and drugging. If there’s one thing we know about pregnant addicts, it’s that we can count on them to make rational choices by considering future consequences.
Sure, various “social scientists” and “medical doctors” say the opposite. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, both oppose punishing pregnant addicts, saying such policies discourage them from seeking medical attention. Local addiction treatment centers say the same thing, citing limited space in Billings and surrounding communities. Harris, however, told the Gazette he “can’t imagine any of these folks … turning away a pregnant mother.”
“I regret that I have not pronounced this policy years ago,” he said. “I don’t have any statistics that I can provide at this time, but we do know the trends based on what comes across our desks.”
I applaud Harris for his take-charge attitude to law enforcement—expressed not just in his willingness to refer to his own statements as pronouncements, but also in his bold decision to adopt a new policy without research. Sure, there are rafts of studies and published opinions from doctors, scientists and treatment specialists begging law enforcement not to do what he just did. Experts agree that policies like his actually worsen the lives of pregnant addicts and their children, but Harris doesn’t care what some egghead says. He’s going with his gut. His gut says put the drunk mother in jail, where she can either sober up or lose her fetus to withdrawal trying.
“Harris doesn’t care what some egghead says. He’s going with his gut. His gut says put the drunk mother in jail, where she can either sober up or lose her fetus to withdrawal trying.”
Common sense tells us that a newborn baby has a better chance at life if his alcoholic mother has recently been incarcerated. Some people just don’t get it, though. In addition to “doctors” and “treatment professionals,” the “court system” has ruled against policies like the one Harris just embraced. In 2014, a district court in Hamilton threw out a case against a 21-year-old pregnant woman charged with felony endangerment for using marijuana and opiates. Harris says his plan is different, though, because it will pursue civil rather than criminal prosecutions.
The important thing is that pregnant women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol will finally face some negative consequences. When someone is really getting away with something, like drinking uncontrollably even though she’s about to have a baby, it’s up to government to step in and bend the arc of her life toward justice. Harris has embraced a visionary plan to punish these people into success.
But why stop there? When someone is actively screwing up her life, the best way for her to turn things around is to go to jail. Harris’ policy has given me several genius ideas for protecting children by sending their mothers to prison.
For example, when a mother is too busy texting to notice that her toddler has wandered into the street? Jail. This is a minor offense, so a few months in foster care while Mom is doing time should put the child’s life back on track. Ditto for kids whose mothers don’t read to them at bedtime. For more serious offenses, such as leaving their kids home alone while they work a second job to compensate for unpaid child support, mothers should get multi-year sentences. It’s the only way to discourage bad parenting.
Pediatricians and addiction counselors might clutch their pearls, but laymen like me and Harris know that you have to get tough on mothers to protect their children. It’s the only way that makes sense, especially when you’re dealing with compulsive behaviors like substance abuse. I remember when I was a kid and I got so addicted to Super Mario Brothers that I forgot to feed the dog. My parents were disappointed, but they loved the dog enough to do the right thing: lock me in the basement and drive him to animal control. Now Sparky lives on a farm and works as an assistant county attorney, I am told.
Do I continue to play Super Mario Brothers? Oh yes. Despite its obviously detrimental effect on my life, I just can’t help myself. But I’m glad someone punished me, because I learned the most important lesson of all: If you’re going to screw up, don’t be a woman. I’ve been a hard-drinking, dope-smoking, turtle-stomping wildman ever since, but it all worked out fine, because I am not capable of becoming pregnant. That, dear reader, has made all the difference.
Dan Brooks is on Twitter at @DangerBrooks.