Dealing Drugs to the Unborn

April 8, 2006

One of the main strategies of pro-life organizations is to get legislators to grant zygotes, embryos, and fetuses the same rights as people who have been born. Laci’s Law was a real coup on this front. Playing on the public’s outrage against Scott Peterson, who murdered his very pregnant wife, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law so guys like Peterson could be prosecuted for two murders instead of one. So he could be sentenced to double-death, which is much worse than just plain ole death.

But when fetuses are given the same rights as individuals, things can get a little surreal, as pro-lifers in Texas are discovering. The state passed a statute a few years back, classifying fetuses as individuals. Panhandle DA Rebecca King convicted a couple of women of drug-dealing (rather than possession) when it was discovered that they had smoked cocaine and meth during their pregnancy.

Recently, the Texas 7th Court of Appeals overturned King’s ruling.

Instead, the court held a pregnant mother’s transfer of a drug to her fetus through ingestion did not constitute delivery of a controlled substance because the fetus never actually “possessed” the drug.

Rebecca King seems to be a bit of a rogue. After the law first passed, King sent a letter to all Potter County doctors, telling them to report any pregnant woman who has used illegal narcotics while pregnant, or they would be prosecuted. If a meth-head mother-to-be ever considered getting a little prenatal care, she certainly wouldn’t now!

Even the anti-abortion group that pushed for the fetus-as-individual statute is backpedaling, saying that King’s interpretation of the law is wrong and potentially damaging.

As the pro-life movement chalks up legislative successes, it will increasingly find itself battered by the Law of Unintended Consequences.