Pregnancy Justice has, for some time, been encouraging attorneys who represent mothers in civil child neglect proceedings ("family defense lawyers") to challenge neglect and abuse charges based on positive drug tests.
These cases often involve women who give birth and have their newborns taken from them based on nothing more than an unconfirmed positive test for an illegal drug. If unchallenged, such cases set precedent for recognizing fetal rights under the law (making it possible to view pregnant women as able to abuse their children before they are even born); for expanding the war on drugs to women’s wombs; and for perpetuating the use of junk science or no science in child welfare cases that disproportionately target low-income women of color.
Through special continuing education programs starting in 2009, meetings, and outreach, Pregnancy Justice has been encouraging family defense lawyers to challenge such cases and we have been providing them with the tools to do so. We are happy to report that the Brooklyn Family Defense Project (BFDP) is one of the organizations that has taken up the cause. As a result, they won an important victory in the "EC" case holding that evidence of a pregnant woman’s marijuana use alone does not provide the basis for civil child abuse proceedings. It is an unbelievably good example of what happens when family defense lawyers vigorously defend pregnant women and challenge drug war propaganda. It is also a prime example of the importance of demanding that judicial decisions involving pregnant women and drug users be based on science rather than prejudice and presumption.
To read the brief click here.