Newsbrief: Hawaii to Prosecute Mother in Meth Baby Case 10/24/03

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In an Aloha State first, Hawaii prosecutors have charged a Kane'ohe woman with manslaughter in the death of her two-day-old son because she used methamphetamine during the late stages of her pregnancy. The decision to charge 31-year-old Tayshea Aiwohi in the infant's death came just days after the US Supreme Court upheld a similar prosecution and conviction in South Carolina by refusing to hear the case ( It also comes as Hawaii is in the midst of a full-blown methamphetamine mania fueled in part by real social problems associated with meth use, but also energized by a steady drumbeat of "the sky is falling" assessments from lawmen and lawmakers, which, along with each "meth warrior" crime, are eagerly trumpeted by a sensation-seeking press (

The charge comes more than two years after Aiwohi's infant son died a day after coming home from the hospital in July 2001. The case marks the first time Hawaii prosecutors have charged a woman based on her treatment of her unborn fetus, but Honolulu prosecutor Peter Carlisle told the Honolulu Advertiser it would probably not be the last. Heck, said Carlisle, he might even file assault charges against "meth moms" and heavy drinkers if their babies are born injured but do not die.

"Next he'll be adding in the women who don't eat right," retorted Aiwohi's attorney, deputy public defender Todd Eddins, adding that the prosecutor's logic could see women arrested for smoking while pregnant or failing to attend prenatal doctor's appointments.

While prosecutions of women who used drugs while pregnant have occurred nearly 200 times in the US beginning with the "crack baby" mothers of the 1980s, the practice has been strongly condemned by a panoply of medical and public health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Nurses Association and American Public Health Association.

"Criminal prosecution of chemically dependent women will have the overall result of deterring such women from seeking both prenatal care and chemical dependency treatment," concluded a position statement by the American Association of Addiction Medicine, "thereby increasing, rather than preventing, harm to children and to society as a whole."

"These women are addicts who become pregnant," reads a statement by the National Association for Perinatal Addiction Research and Education, "not pregnant women who decide to use drugs and become addicts."

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Issue #308, 10/24/03 Bolivians Deal Blow to US Andean Drug Policy | University of Virginia Drug Bust Draws Complaints, Disbelief | Seattle's Sensible Marijuana Initiative Idea Catches On -- Eugene Next? | DRCNet Interview: Robert Rapplean of Parents and Educators for the Reform of Drug Laws | Press Release: Pain Coalition Seeks Relief Through Chronic Pain Treatment Act | Newsbrief: Hawaii to Prosecute Mother in Meth Baby Case | Newsbrief: Urine Sales Case Before South Carolina Supreme Court | Newsbrief: What Racist Drug War? Ask Maryland | Newsbrief: Latest Gallup Poll Finds Public Believes Drugs a Serious Problem But Not the Most Serious | Newsbrief: Glacial Movement on Ganja Decrim in Jamaica | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Canada to Look at Subsidized Housing for Junkies | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

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