From In Utero Child Abuse To Illegitimate Abortion

14 months.

“What do you think the consequences should be for a woman who harms her unborn baby by drinking alcohol?”

That is the question a friend from high school recently asked on Facebook. She and her husband adopted a little girl from Russia who suffers from several physical conditions because the birth mom drank alcohol while pregnant.

It’s common knowledge that when an expecting mom drinks alcohol, it greatly puts an unborn baby at risk. Granted, alcohol isn’t the only harmful threat for a child in regards to the pregnant mom’s wreckless behavior.

What about drugs? What about carelessness in general? What consequences are there for those in our society whom we consider to be “unfit mothers?”

It’s not like it’s easy to always pinpoint the “birth defects” of a child on the mother’s bad decisions. After all, not every baby born from a good mother makes it into this world perfectly healthy.

But going back to the topic of pregnant mothers who make destructive decisions, what exactly can we consider to be “child abuse” in the womb? Or as I like to call it: in utero child abuse.

For me, though, I take this topic a level further:

If a mother deliberately harms her fetus with the intent to kill her child, maybe by using a coat hanger, or having someone repeatedly punch her stomach, or even if the mom herself shoots her own stomach with a gun, and the child dies in the womb, is that definitely considered murder?

I realize each state may have its laws regarding this situation, but I’m less concerned with man’s law and more interested to know how our society perceives this within our own moral scope.

When a mother intentionally terminates her pregnancy on her own in some unthinkable way I just named, is that definitely murder?

Or do we deem that as an illegimate version of an abortion?

Image: Pregnant woman holding a cigarette, via Shutterstock.

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  1. by Amanda Alexander

    On February 6, 2012 at 9:25 am

    I’m the friend Nick mentioned here. My daughter, Anna, adopted from Russia in 2008, has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Anna’s birthmother kept her for one month before she was taken to the orphanage (Kansk Baby House 2, in the Krasnoyarsk region), where she remained until we adopted her. We have confirmation from the birth mother that she drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes while pregnant with Anna. Anna has been psychiatrically hospitalized twice (with the last one being for 29 days). We live in TN but have traveled to Seattle, WA; Clifton, VA; and Birmingham, AL- as well as local specialist to get help for Anna. She takes medication, she has an Individual Eduation Plan at school. She suffers daily from what her birth mother knowingly did to her. Her birth mother admitted she knew not to drink alcohol while pregnant.

    Our daughter recently received her 27th diagnosis. She is in EMDR therapy for children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the neglect and abuse she suffered from in Russia.

    Please don’t drink, smoke, or use drugs while pregnant.

    Amanda

  2. by Paula Holland

    On February 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    We adopted twins here is the US through the foster care system, we had them in foster care since 11mos., they were diagnosed with FASD at approx 2 yrs.,we too have traveled for therapies and Dr’s trying to find way’s to help our children. Our twins are now 8 yrs old and are on medications and recieve therapies to help them cope with thier day. we homeschool, public school was too overwhelming and our system just didn’t seem prepared to deal the complex issue’s of our children, so i sold my business to stay home and teach them myself. I honestly think that it should be criminal to inflict a brain injury upon a unborn child, and the parent should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for endangering the welfare of a minor.

  3. by Lia

    On February 10, 2012 at 6:08 am

    If the child is intended to die in the womb and does so, it’s exactly the same morally as an abortion. The differences are the legal status and physical risk involved, which are nothing to do with ethics per se.

    I won’t entangle myself in the politics of the issue, though I do have definite views :)

  4. by Pizziehl

    On February 12, 2012 at 10:01 am

    This makes me nervous to start calling it child abuse.

    I had an IUD and found out several months into my pregnancy that I was with child. If I had known, of course I would have abstained from alcohol, but I did not. Should I expect CPS at the door?

  5. by Nick Shell

    On February 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    You’re talking about something different though- you didn’t know. There’s a difference.

  6. by Kim

    On February 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Pizziehl, I`m with Nick on that one, not only did you not know, you had taken steps to prevent pregnancy.
    At the same time, you do have a point. Its a short skip for the government to take that over the line, big time.