Single parent christmas vacation
Within months, prosecutors and courts began applying the law to women who exposed their embryo or fetus to controlled substances in utero.A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm.
She hadn’t been sleeping well; her brown hair hung lank past her shoulders, and her eyes were rimmed with worry. After the fight, she called her mother, Ann Sharpe, a retired teacher and guidance counselor who lived nearby.Eliminating male defendants brought the count of individual women arrested to about 1,900.To find prenatal cases, the reporters examined thousands of pages of electronic court documents, checked news reports, and contacted prosecutors and defense lawyers.“She was really upset—’I’m miserable, I’m sick, I can’t sleep,'” Sharpe recalled. '” As Shehi later told investigators, she swallowed half of one of her boyfriend’s Valiums to calm herself down.Not long after, Shehi and her boyfriend and their kids packed up the camper and drove 325 miles from Gadsden, in northeast Alabama, to the beach in Panama City, Florida, for one last vacation before the baby came.After the arrest, the judge overseeing those arrangements issued an emergency order granting her ex-husband sole custody. “I was supposed to pick him up from school,” Shehi said, “and my lawyer saw the order and told me, ‘Don’t go.'” The story of how Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law became the most sweeping measure deployed against pregnant women in the United States during the last decade begins with methamphetamine.
The drug arrived in the 1990s, and by the mid-2000s it was overwhelming law enforcement and social service agencies in rural, economically depressed areas in the north of the state and along the Florida border.
In Shehi’s case, social workers determined that James, the baby she supposedly endangered, was fine and could remain in her care, court records show.
But she had an open custody case involving her preschool-age son.
But occasional, small doses of diazepam (the generic name for Valium) are considered safe.
According to the lab report, James had nothing in his system.
Should a mother face charges even when she was using a prescription drug under a doctor’s supervision? Some of the most wrenching effects of the law can be seen in the area of parental rights.