Officials cracking down on mothers who use drugs while pregnant

PHENIX CITY, AL - There are different types of child abuse, but did you know mothers can be charged for the harm they do to their babies before the child is even born?

In the past year and a half Phenix City police say they have arrested 14 mothers and charged them with chemical endangerment to children. Officers say these charges stem from the mothers being under the influence of drugs at the time they were pregnant with their children.

A few years ago an Alabama law was created that protects children from living around illegal drugs.

Lt. Jason Whitten with the Phenix City Police Department explained, "This law was put in place to protect children who are in or around meth labs. However, under the scope of that law, we use it for a child who is born and tests positive for meth or cocaine or marijuana or another dangerous drug."

If a pregnant woman puts those types of chemicals into her body while pregnant, doctors say she is putting her baby in danger as well. Chief OBGYN at the Medical Center Dr. Kendall Handy said,  "Some of them may have a few withdrawal symptoms initially, but after that the major problem is the environment they are in after they are delivered."

With 14 recent cases of chemical endangerment to children, law enforcement in east Alabama is working closely with hospitals to take these kids out of harm's way. Dr. Handy told News Leader Nine, "If we get a history that the mother is using cocaine, or another drug such that it would cause a negative effect on the baby, we take that history and we will actually test the mother specifically for cocaine or meth. If it comes up positive then we'll look much closer at the infant to make sure there aren't going to be any problems."

Lt. Whitten added, "DHR steps in and makes sure everyone is going to be safe before they release the child from the hospital. The investigation is completed and if it happened here in Russell County we obtain a warrant for the mother's arrest."

This is a felony charge and women arrested in these cases could be facing prison time.

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