Bringing Addicted Babies into the World Should Be a Crime

by James A. Bacon

When social breakdown, a drug epidemic and failed government institutions converge, this is what you get: babies like Charlee Ford (seen at left) born with opioids and marijuana in her system and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. After birth, her lungs failed for nine minutes before doctors revived her. In her short, tortured lifetime, she suffered from severe seizures. She died at an age of four months.

Graphic credit: Roanoke Times

The surging use and abuse of opioids and other illegal drugs such as methamphetamines is associated with a horrifying increase in the number of Virginia babies born addicted to drugs. Worse, these babies are usually born into totally dysfunctional families. Mothers and fathers are themselves are likely to be substance abusers, which puts the babies at high risk of abuse and neglect. Meanwhile, child protective services in Virginia are uneven in quality — some local programs, one might say, are as bureaucratically dysfunctional as the families they serve.

The Roanoke Times tells the tragic story here.  The focus is on Rockbridge County in the Shenandoah Valley. But similar stories can be found all around the state. It’s a long story but worth the investment in time.

Bacon’s bottom line: Maybe the Roanoke Times article hit me harder today than it would have previously because this weekend I visited my month-old grandson for the first time and cradled the tiny, helpless little creature in my arms. He is a lucky one, blessed by two loving, hyper-conscientious parents who will take very good care of him. Many babies are not so fortunate. Charlee’s story prompts several thoughts….

First… The Democratic Party now enjoys undisputed control over Virginia state government. Expect a lot of activist measures in the 2020 General Assembly session. But before lawmakers expand the size and scope of state government, perhaps they should seek to ensure that current government programs work as they should. Virginia’s child protective services are a disaster. Someone needs to wrestle with prickly questions that have no bumper-sticker answers. What rights do demonstrably unfit parents have to keep their children, and how aggressive should the state (in the form of locally administered social services agencies) be in removing those children? To what extent should the state have the power to step in and fix or take charge of failed local programs? 

Second… My libertarian and conservative ideals are warring with each other on the issue of drug policy. I think my conservative principles are winning. It’s one thing for grown adults to screw up their own lives with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s another thing when they bring addicted babies with multiple medical maladies into the world. If that isn’t a crime, it should be. It’s fine to treat addicts as victims of a disease, which they are. We should give them help. We should work to make addiction services more accessible and affordable. But addicts still need to be held accountable for their actions. While heroin or meth addiction is not a crime, child neglect should be even if the parent is an addict, just as killing someone while driving under the influence is a crime.

Third… While we have a raging addiction epidemic, I am profoundly uneasy with the idea of decriminalizing, much less legalizing, marijuana in Virginia. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, 30% of marijuana users have a “marijuana use disorder,” and there is a significant body of evidence that marijuana use is associated with an increase in the incidence of schizophrenia and psychosis. Today’s marijuana is not like the highly diluted “pot” that so many Baby Boomers grew up toking in the ’60s and ’70s. It has much higher levels of THC, the health and mental-health effects of which are not fully understood. At the very least, if our new legislature does decide to decriminalize marijuana, lawmakers need to ensure that users are held accountable for their actions.

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9 responses to “Bringing Addicted Babies into the World Should Be a Crime”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Don’t blame CPS. Those folks are dealing with an avalanche, under paid, over worked and under resourced. If this new GA wants to spend some money there, I won’t complain. Sure, charge the parents and remove the children…..and then what? Are you willing to be a foster parent? Any of the rest of us? God Damn The Pusher Man, that was the song, right?

    1. According to the article I would definitely hold VA DSS accountable. It states these issues have been in existence for more than 40 years and it begins with lack of supervision from state authorities.

  2. Since most will commit some type of crime, or multiple types, to get said drugs, I’m not sure that putting another one on there will help any one.
    The problem comes back to dysfunctional families and dysfunctional thinking/mindset. Apparently what the Dems are advocating is NOT helping at all or enough to make a dent.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    So my thought is when I hear the phrase “failed govt” – I’m motivated to ask – then – what SHOULD BE the role of govt (all taxpayers) for this type of thing?

    Is this yet another example of “MO MONEY” for a system that is not demonstrating its effective?

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Jim. Thanks for this. Tears the heart.

  5. djrippert Avatar

    Grandpa Bacon holds a baby and turns into Grandpa Simpson. What a load of codswallop. Should pregnant women use marijuana? No. They also shouldn’t smoke, drink or eat fish with potentially high levels of mercury. And for God’s sake they shouldn’t take methamphetamines. However, going from there to decriminalized marijuana causes babies to be born with methamphetamines in their system isn’t just jumping the shark it’s taking a rocket trip over the shark.

    If you want to compare marijuana to something I’d suggest chardonnay not methamphetamines.

    As for marijuana and opiate addiction Bacon has it exactly backwards. Here’s what Harvard’s Heath magazine has to say, “According to two studies recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the rate of opiate prescriptions is lower in states where medical marijuana laws have been passed.”

    Many people with opiate addictions started when a doctor prescribed opiates for pain. The pain ended but the addiction to opiates did not. In states with medical marijuana laws doctors sometimes prescribe marijuana for pain. No opiates. No opiate addiction. No graduation to heroin when the opioid prescription runs out. Fewer babies born with heroin.

    Somehow Jim also misses the point that this was a Virginia baby born in a Virginia hospital to Virginia parents who went home to a house in Virginia. Guess where marijuana is completely and totally illegal?

    According to the National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, “Alcohol causes more harm than heroin or cocaine during pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine says, “Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”

    Where is Bacon’s call for the abolition of alcohol? 40,000 babies are born in the US each year with fetal alcohol syndrome.

    Finally, this article could be Exhibit A of Saul Alinsky’s rules for faux conservatives:

    1. Start with a heart wrenching story.
    2. Conflate methamphetamines with marijuana.
    3. Completely miss the point on medical marijuana reducing opioid abuse.
    4. Ignore the perfectly legal and far worse effects of alcohol.
    5. Pretend that making marijuana illegal is preventing its use.
    6. Plea for more taxes and larger government to continue the enforcement of marijuana laws and the incarceration of offenders.
    7. Make sure the drug cartels continue to reap the benefits of the marijuana prohibition.

    From derelict meth-head parents to pleading for marijuana possession to remain a crime in Virginia. For the children …

    Saul Alinsky would be proud.

  6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “As for marijuana and opiate addiction Bacon has it exactly backwards.”

    No, Bacon has got it exactly right.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    The question is – who is responsible for helping the opioid babies and does that mean the State has rights superior to parents?

    What is the proper role of government?

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    One might think that those who claim they support “libertarian” policies in government – would SUPPORT the freedom to use marijuana, no?

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