Saturday, August 20

Drinking while pregnant could become a crime

Drinking In Pregnancy Could Be Made Illegal

Sky News

  • Drinking In Pregnancy Could Be Made Illegal
  • Drinking In Pregnancy Could Be Made Illegal

Drinking while pregnant could become a criminal offence after a court case to be heard today, women’s charities have said.A local authority in the North West of England is seeking criminal injuries compensation for a six-year-old girl in care who has ”growth retardation” caused by her mother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy.Both the local authority and the young girl cannot be named.If the Court of Appeal agrees that the mother committed a crime, the ruling could lead to the criminalisation of taking necessary medication or refusing a caesarean section, campaigners have warned.

The lawyer acting on behalf of the council, Neil Sugarman, told Sky News that the court case was not aiming to criminalise pregnant women who drink.

But he said: “The mum was drinking excessively and was warned not to – so we believe it’s a crime as set down by the definition of the scheme.”

The compensation would be paid by the taxpayer, not the child’s mother.

The case will be heard at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday with a ruling expected at a later date.

Campaigner Susan Fleisher adopted her daughter Addie – now 27 – when she was three-years-old.

It was years later that she was diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), caused by her birth-mother drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Ms Fleisher said: “When she was 11, I was at a conference for adoptive parents and they started talking about FAS and my daughter had all the traits; the facial features, the learning difficulties.

“It’s a long list, and I thought ‘could this be what my daughter has?’ It was caused by alcohol.”

Following her daughter’s diagnosis, Ms Fleischer set up the charity National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome UK, which provides support to the families of and those with FAS.

Despite her daughter’s condition, Ms Fleischer doesn’t back the idea of criminalising drinking while pregnant.

She said: “No mother intentionally harms her child.

“Women do it either out of ignorance, either they haven’t been told, their husbands encourage them to drink or they have a problem with alcohol.”

Clare Murphy from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said the case risks setting a dangerous precedent.

“If a woman finds herself in this situation we really need them to confide in health professionals, not criminalising pregnant women when what they need is help and resources,” she said.