Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore appears to be the only place in Maryland – and one of just a few nationwide – where police and prosecutors send drug-addicted young mothers to prison, the Baltimore Sun reports. The American Civil Liberties Union is the appealing the conviction of one. The defendant’s attorneys argue that prosecutors are inventing a crime that legislators never intended – and in doing so, have taken an approach that has been found unconstitutional in dozens of states and deemed ill-advised by scores of medical, drug treatment, and child welfare organizations.
“Nobody thinks it’s a great idea to take cocaine while pregnant,” said the ACLU’s David Rocah. “But the unanimous view of medical and public health professionals and drug treatment professionals is that if you want to stop people from doing that, the way to do that is to provide them with meaningful access to drug treatment and not criminally prosecute them.” Courts have struck down criminalizing drug use by pregnant women in many states, but about 70 in South Carolina have been prosecuted for using drugs during pregnancy. In Maryland, the ACLU argues that Maryland law defines reckless endangerment as conduct by one person that causes substantial risk of harm to another, but that “person” does not legally include a fetus. Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, has seen a resurgence of attempts to prosecute such cases in recent years, in part as an outgrowth of abortion foes’ successes in carving out fetal rights.