February 1, 2013 — An Iowa House subcommittee on Wednesday advanced legislation (HSB 49) that would allow felony charges against a woman if her newborn tests positive for illicit drugs, the Muscatine Journal reports.
The bill would establish a new type of child endangerment offense, with penalties of up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $7,500. The statute would apply if an action by a pregnant woman had a "direct and foreseeable consequence" that resulted in her newborn testing positive for an illegal drug (Boshart, Muscatine Journal, 1/30).
Rep. Clel Baudler (R), the bill's author, said it conveys a message that "using illegal drugs will not be tolerated." According to Baudler, incarceration is an effective strategy for helping women to stop using drugs (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/30).
Rep. Mary Wolfe (D) said that similar laws in other states have not deterred drug use by pregnant women and that some laws have been overturned by court challenges. She warned of "the collateral consequences" of the bill. For instance, pregnant women with substance abuse problems might avoid seeking prenatal care or delivering in a hospital for fear of prosecution, which could put both the woman and the fetus at risk, she said.
The bill now heads to the House Public Safety Committee for consideration. Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Hogg (D), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he does not intend to take up the measure if it passes the House (Muscatine Journal, 1/30).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.