Pregnant women who illegally consume any controlled substance would be guilty of a felony, under a bill that just passed the Senate on an 18-16 vote. The bill suggests that drug court or treatment be considered for the women, but makes it clear that it’s not guaranteed and that incarceration is the other option.
All of North Idaho’s senators voted against the bill except Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake. The debate was intense, reports S-R reporter Meghann Cuniff.
“Being addicted to meth is not a crime – it’s a disease,” said Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise, an attorney. “It’s a disease that requires medical treatment, not incarceration.” She added: “We should be focusing our efforts and money on substance abuse and treatment, not incarceration.”
Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, also an attorney, countered, “It at least provides some protection for that baby. … At least she can’t get the drugs during that time, and there’s a better chance for that baby.”
Senate Health & Welfare Chairman Dick Compton, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “It is my great fear that now these mothers will not step forward because they fear there’s a felony charge waiting for them.” He noted that he’s by no means soft on drug use. “I hate meth. I’ve seen what it’s done to our community, I’ve seen what it’s done in North Idaho. We’re the hotbed for meth. I hate drug dealers. If I had my way we would put them in the stocks in the city square and stone them.”
Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, cautioned, “This isn’t only meth that we’re dealing with, and I have yet to see scientific evidence that can link marijuana use with ongoing impact to a child. … We’re walking down a road in statute that’s not supported with scientific evidence.”
The bill applies to any illegal ingestion of any controlled substance by a pregnant woman, as well as to anyone who gives illegal drugs to a child under 18. It now moves to the House.