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Ask the Expert: Criminalization and Legal Implications of Substance Use During Pregnancy

April 26, 2018

In the context of the increase in opioid use in the U.S. and persistent myths about the effects of criminalized drugs on babies exposed prenatally, some states have increased efforts to identify and punish pregnant women who use alcohol or controlled substances, or who have substance use disorders, treating people who are pregnant or postpartum differently from other individuals who use drugs or alcohol or who have SUDs. This criminalization and use of the civil child welfare system directed at pregnant women and mothers with substance use disorders has negative consequences, such as women not seeking prenatal or other health care and experiencing loneliness, social isolation and stigma. This webinar explored these consequences and possible reasons why women do not self-report problematic substance use due to fear of child removal, criminal charges, or other legal action. Issues surrounding lack of knowledge or awareness among care providers about how to respond when women self-disclose substance use while pregnant were covered, and effective programs that have partnered with the legal community were described.


Amber Khan, JD, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW)
Aarin Michele Williams, JD, NAPW
Indra Wood Lusero, JD, NAPW