Drinking while pregnant could become criminal offence in UK
Two British women’s charities have cautioned ahead of landmark case in the Court of Appeal Wednesday that drinking alcohol when pregnant could become a criminal offense.
If the Court of Appeal rules that the woman in question committed a crime then it paves the way ahead for future criminalization of pregnant women, warned two charities, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and Birthrights, the Press Association reports.
In this case a girl who is now six-years old was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes retarded growth, face abnormalities and intellectual impairment. FAS was diagnosed 252 times in England in 2012 and 2013.
The Upper Tribunal of the Administrative Appeals Chamber ruled that the child was born with FAS as a “direct result” of her mother’s drinking. But in January it was revealed that the local authority had failed in its bid to get compensation on the child’s behalf from the Criminal Injuries Authority (CICA)
Now Lawyers who are representing the local authority will try and prove that the girl’s mother was criminally negligent under the Offences Against the Person’s Act 1861.
The charities say that this could lay the ground for criminalizing a wide range of behavior, which may pose a risk to an unborn baby.
"When we consider that the taking of necessary medication, such as treatment for epilepsy or depression, or the refusal of a caesarean section could be seen to fall into the category of maternal behaviors that may damage the fetus, the trajectory of such an approach is deeply worrying. We should take very seriously any legal developments which call into question pregnant women's fundamental right to bodily autonomy and right to make their own decisions,” said Ann Furedi, chief executive of bpas in joint statement with Rebecca Schiller, co-chair of Birthrights.
"Pregnant women deserve support and respect, not the prospect of criminal sanction for behavior which would not be illegal for anyone else," they added.
They said that it would not be in the best interests of mothers or their babies to treat pregnant women with drug and alcohol problems as criminals.