State Representative Mack Butler (R-AL) introduced legislation this week requiring medical professionals to notify police within two hours if they suspect a pregnant woman of having consumed illegal substances -- regardless of whether she tests positive for drugs or not, AL.com reports.
During a hearing about the bill on Wednesday, the Times Daily reports, Butler "said that women who give birth to babies exposed to illegal drugs are often hard to track down when drug tests come back positive and they’ve already left the hospital."
"Crackheads don’t have permanent addresses," Butler further explained to members of the Alabama's House Health Committee as the legislative body considered the merits of formally titled H.B. 408.
Alabama is one of several states "that arrest and prosecute women for drug use during pregnancy," opening up 48 such cases against pregnant women and mothers in the last 18 month, AL.com reports.
Butler's new bill steps beyond existing law, and makes it necessary for suspicious doctors to call the cops even if their pregnant patients' drug tests aren't in yet:
"This bill would specify that if a doctor or other health care professional suspects that a child is being or has been chemically endangered by being unlawfully exposed to a controlled substance, the doctor or health care professional must report his or her suspicion orally to law enforcement within two hours even if results of blood, urine, or other medical tests are not available to the doctor or health care professional within that time period."
Megan Skipper, a student and on-the-ground Planned Parenthood spokesperson tells AL.com that Butler's proposed bill "could lead to racial profiling, since it only requires the suspicion of drug use before notifying the authorities." Skipper also cautions that fear of being reported to police could discourage some women from seeking prenatal care in the first place.
Susan Watson, executive director of the state's ACLU, expresses concern about an incremental criminalization of pregnancy. "Where would it stop?" Watson wonders about Alabama's H.B. 408, "Not exercising? Working long hours? Inability to afford regular prenatal care? Are these going to be made a crime next? This legislation opens us up to just that."
"I consider this a pro-life bill," Butler affirms to AL.com. "It is pro-life for the child and pro-life for the mother."
Decades of research on the long-term effects of prenatal crack cocaine exposure show "no statistically significant differences in the long-term health and life outcomes between full-term babies exposed to cocaine in-utero and those who were not." Rather, it's the economic resources of the mother - not any "gestational exposure to cocaine" - that is the "more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children," neonatologist Hallam Hart tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Spokespeople for National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a non-profit, penned an op-ed in the New York Times last year citing hundreds of cases in under a decade where pregnant women had been arrested or otherwise deprived "of their personal liberty."
The majority of women arrested during their pregnancies "went to term and gave birth to a healthy baby. This includes the many cases where the pregnant woman was alleged to have used some amount of alcohol or a criminalized drug."
Nevertheless, the advocates warn, incidences of pregnant women arrested for spurious and unscientifically sound reasons are "occurring every week"
Bulter introduced a bill in April allowing Alabama public school teachers to substitute lessons in the assigned science curriculum with religious teachings.
On his Facebook page earlier today, Butler declared "God's Not Dead!" and shared a Fox News story of a teenage boy in Texas whose heart stopped for 20 minutes, during which time he had visions of Jesus Christ. Screenshot below: