Charities warn court case could set dangerous precedent
PREGNANT women could soon be arrested for drinking alcohol, women charities said yesterday.
The warning came after a woman appeared in court today for causing her daughter “growth retardation” due to alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
However, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and charity Birthrights said the case could set a precedent for the control and potential criminalisation of women’s behaviours.
BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi and Birthrights co-chair Rebecca Schiller said in a statement that “viewing these cases as potential criminal offences will do nothing for the health of women and their babies.
“There is a strong public interest in promoting the good health of pregnant women and babies but, as long-standing government policy recognises, this interest is best served by treating addiction and substance abuse in pregnancy as a public-health, not criminal, issue.”
They added: “As well as undermining women’s ability to make their own choices while pregnant, women with substance addictions may avoid engaging with health services.
“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.”
Both groups also expressed concern over the consequences that legislating on pregnant women’s drinking habits would have on health workers.
In the last year there were 252 Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) cases diagnosed in England alone.
The condition — which results from ingesting alcohol during a pregnancy — can stunt growth and create learning and intellectual impediments.