Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Couldn't ignore this one. Police recently responded to a domestic disturbance call in North Dakota and encountered an intoxicated woman who was breastfeeding her newborn. They arrested her. And she subsequently pleaded guilty to child neglect and faces up to five years in jail. For more of the sordid details on this boozing and boobing saga, click here.
No, I do not know enough about this situation to cast informed and well-calibrated judgment on the actions of the police here -- and no one has compelling scientific evidence about the effects of alcohol in breastmilk on infants -- but as a lawyer and as a mother and as an American, the story troubles me.
As a lawyer of latter day, I'm worried about the very real problem of line-drawing. Are we going to start rounding up pregnant women who are sipping wine or nibbling feta or not eating anything while pregnant because data indicates that these things might not be good for the fetus? Are we going to arrest a woman who has ingested vast amounts of caffeine and is nursing? Where do we draw these legal lines?
As a mother, I am concerned about this story because, well, (gasp), I consumed moderate amounts of wine while nursing both of my daughters. Yes, I was responsible. No, I didn't nurse while intoxicated. But I would be lying if I said I abstained from Pinot during those postnatal months. I would also be lying if I said the Pinot wasn't often a sublime treat at the end of a long and tiring day. And I am no scientist, but both of my girls appear to be thriving. (Brag Moment: Toddler's teacher called her a superstar today!)
As an American, I worry about privacy. I am not sure anyone truly knows how to define privacy or that enigmatic right to privacy. But it's easier to intuit when privacy has been violated. It seems to me that this woman's right to privacy has been compromised in some way I cannot quite articulate. Admittedly, this is an argument I am less sure about. And this is when facts of the case matter. If this woman was conspicuously drunk, unable to care for her tiny baby, and someone in that home or nearby called the police because conditions were unsafe or out of hand, maybe her right to privacy has been surrendered? Who knows. My legal knowledge is rusty. This is where my lawyer friends can maybe help me out?
What are your thoughts on this arrest? Does it trouble you like it does me? Are you better able to articulate what is wrong with this picture? Or maybe there is nothing wrong with this picture and I am simply defending my own questionable behavior?