Mother's Choice vs. the Benefit of a Child to Be Born

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Recently I read an opinion on a newspaper which discussed about harming of fetus by consuming substances that may harm and disturb the development of a baby, potentially causing lifelong damage to them after birth. Alcohol and tobacco are most common of these substances.

This may border the abortion discussion more or less, but should we take action against mothers who compromise the health of their baby in such a way? (And another question might be when?) Quoting (and translating) the finnish writer:

" In the editorial ([of] HS 6.11) it was stated that drug abuser mothers can’t be ordered to involuntary treatment, because then the benefit of a fetus would be put before the benefit of a mother. In my opinion it is not a fetus which benefits, but a child-to-be-born.

[…]

If a mother is not able to choose sobriety in benefit of her child, we others might have to do that decision for her. We might have do that anyways right after the baby has been born.

Why should we wait?"

To clarify, this discussion is not just about that specific quote.

One thing (among many) that interests me in this case is the question that is it an important distinction when we know that the child will be born and might suffer a lifelong damage, compared to a killing of an unconscious fetus?

 
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Harming of an Unborn Baby

Please tell me this isn’t going to go where I think it’s going to go…

Originally posted by TuJe:

One thing (among many) that interests me in this case is the question that is it an important distinction when we know that the child will be born and might suffer a lifelong damage, compared to a killing of an unconscious fetus?

Sometimes I love being wrong.

Anyway, for me it would have to be a more case-by-case thing, where you consider the degree of harm that they’re going to suffer, and if they could have the help they would need if they were born.

 
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Should I change the title then? I’ll change it to “Mother’s Choice vs. the Benefit of a Child”.
Edited the title again.

 
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In the case of many substances, we simply don’t know what damage (if any) will be done to the fetus. Where we do know what damage will be done (such as with tobacco for instance) then the best course of action is to educate the mother. It is her body, after all. A baby doesn’t exist until it is outside of the womb, surviving (relatively) on its own.

You also have to consider that depending on the genetics of the mother & the genetics ofthe father, harm may well befoul the fetus, without any substance use or abuse occuring. Simple bad luck of the draw in other words.

 
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Although this isn’t entirely about the quote, I still feel as I have to point this out: How does alcohol, tobacco or drugs ‘benefit’ a mother, or any other person for that matter (Sides medical reasons for the mother, which causes everything to fly headlong into a huge puddle of gray)?

 
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@Vika

So you hold the opinion that it is the mother’s choice in every case? Why, in your opinion, is it so?

Let’s presume there are substances that harm the unborn baby, for the sake of the discussion. And a relevant link I found. That research is quite new.

Camoraz: Well… I feel that ‘benefit’ has a subjective meaning here, which means that in a case of alcohol the effect they get from it is worth it despite the possible “downsides” (downsides being subjective: some might think that the “bad” effects are actually what they want, too, if they equate that drinking alcohol results to dying earlier, and some people don’t want to be old…)

 
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Well drugs is certainly a nebulous area. It doesn’t just cover illegal substances. Sometimes the mother is taking prescription services that potentially have a risk to the fetus, but at the same time make life more bearable (or even possible) for the mother. How do you deal with this kind of situation?

For example, the mother is taking salbutamol sulphate for breathing problems. High doses of this drug are known to cause cardiac arrhythmia. It is well within the realm of possibility for a mother on high doses of this drug to cause damage the fetus’ heart, that would go on to affect it into life. However, if the mother doesn’t take the drug, her airways will close, and she risks death.

In such cases there is no clear-cut solution. There is no choice but to risk damage to the fetus, in order to ensure that both continue to live.

Originally posted by TuJe:

@Vika

So you hold the opinion that it is the mother’s choice in every case? Why, in your opinion, is it so?

The fetus doesn’t have a brain capable of making decisions. Whilst it is sentient at ten weeks (in theory at least – may be a bit longer, no way of knowing at this juncture), it lacks the neural pathways to be able to make complex decisions. These don’t form in fact until six months to a year after birth, so it seems pointless to require a complex decision to be made by an organism which is truly incapable of such. Rather we use the decisions of the only brain in the body that is capable of complex decision making. This would be the mother’s.

 
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I say it is a distinction between the choice to perform permanent damage upon an upcoming child and the removal of the fetus entirely. In other words, we believe beyond reasonable doubt that the child will be born, so it will become a person. That person is inflicted with permanent damage due to the mother’s fault and the mother should be prosecuted accordingly. Of course, it may be argued it is better to prevent further damage if found out early, which I agree with. I suspect, however, that some posters may draw too close of a line to abortion. That’s why I included the fact we believe beyond reasonable doubt the child will be born.

 
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Dark, you also have to factor in whether it is reasonable for the mother to know that her consumption is harming the fetus or not. With something such as alcohol, you can make a case that it was reasonable for her to be aware of the possible side effects. With something that seems innoculous to the layperson, such as say, DU contamination of imbibed milk – as is the case in many of the warzone countries in recent years. The mother has a high chance of not knowing there is contamination of the food she is consuming, but regardless, it will still cross the placental barrier, and deal lasting damage to the fetus.

 
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I guess that should be incorporated into the law as much as with actual persons. I get your point. If the mother should not be expected to know, there should be no punishment, but as you said earlier education on what is good/bad for the fetus may help.

 
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A mother should only be held liable if the following conditions are met:
She willingly consumes substances that she knows would harm the development of the fetus.
She plans on carrying to term.
The child shows symptoms that are definitely caused by the mother’s choices during her pregnancy.
Otherwise, she should not be held liable.

This may border the abortion discussion more or less, but should we take action against mothers who compromise the health of their baby in such a way?

The mother should not be held liable if her smoking and drinking results in a miscarriage. Doing so is no different from abortion.

The big distinction between abortion and this comes in as soon as the mother is willing to

causing lifelong damage to them after birth.

The baby is a separate human being after birth. I think we all agree that a baby is a person and that it would be a crime to harm a baby or stunt its development.

Assuming the damage done is the same, the only difference between harming a baby before birth and then delivering it and harming a baby after birth is the time frame in which the damage was done.

Why then should the two cases be treated differently?

 
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Life of the unborn means nothing to these people.

I’m not unwilling to read your posts. You are unwilling for me to read them, by posting crap like this. You pretend others have certain points of views by misinterpreting their statements.

Drugs, alcohol, they think it is the woman’s choice to harm the baby.

You don’t even read the posts in this thread.

lack of morals or values

Not everyone subscribes to your ridiculous objective morality system.

It is all about themselves.

How does that differ from you?

Darkfrogger,

The mother should not be held liable if her smoking and drinking results in a miscarriage. Doing so is no different from abortion.

Unless your requirements are met (planning to give birth).

 
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Originally posted by jhco50:

Why would it matter TuJe. Life of the unborn means nothing to these people. Drugs, alcohol, they think it is the woman’s choice to harm the baby. The baby is of no importance and with the lack of morals or values the people on here haven’t got the capacity to really care. It is all about themselves.

Too broad a statement, jhco, and you know it. Quit painting everyone with a broad brush.

To the OP—this is of course a tough call, as it’s extremely hard to regulate what someone does with their body for nine months. They should have the discipline to stay healthy for that period of time (for the benefit of someone else’s entire life), but some don’t. And how are we going to enforce it? Chase the pregnant women down that smoke/drink and put them in jail? Typically they are just looked down on and educated in hopes of doing things differently.

I know a little girl (I like her but she tries my patience) that has severe ADHD and I suspect that there might have been some substance use while she was in utero. I often wonder what she might have been like without that congenital disadvantage—calmer, maybe, and more capable of learning rather than falling behind in her age group.

 
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It’s really amazing how quickly people insist that the distinction between a born child and an unborn child be made, as if, the unborn child is as inanimate and valueless as a toe nail clipping. So set, are people, that they are not even open to other possibilities being posited in a conversation.

 
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It’s really amazing how quickly people insist that the distinction between a born child and an unborn child be made, as if, the unborn child is as inanimate and valueless as a toe nail clipping. So set, are people, that they are not even open to other possibilities being posited in a conversation.

Let’s hope we won’t start seeing them in this topic, then.

 
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Sorry I’ve been gone for long. Haven’t really been in a mood for posting here.

Originally posted by vikaTae:

Well drugs is certainly a nebulous area. It doesn’t just cover illegal substances. Sometimes the mother is taking prescription services that potentially have a risk to the fetus, but at the same time make life more bearable (or even possible) for the mother. How do you deal with this kind of situation?

For example, the mother is taking salbutamol sulphate for breathing problems. High doses of this drug are known to cause cardiac arrhythmia. It is well within the realm of possibility for a mother on high doses of this drug to cause damage the fetus’ heart, that would go on to affect it into life. However, if the mother doesn’t take the drug, her airways will close, and she risks death.

Yes, this is tough question. As Camoraz mentioned medicine is a huge grey area. I’d prefer to concentrate on a situation where mother consumes these substance(s) for her own leisure.

The fetus doesn’t have a brain capable of making decisions. Whilst it is sentient at ten weeks (in theory at least – may be a bit longer, no way of knowing at this juncture), it lacks the neural pathways to be able to make complex decisions. These don’t form in fact until six months to a year after birth, so it seems pointless to require a complex decision to be made by an organism which is truly incapable of such. Rather we use the decisions of the only brain in the body that is capable of complex decision making. This would be the mother’s.

Yes, a fetus can’t make decisions and I’m not requiring them do any. I’m asking that if a mother obviously harms a baby, who, in the future, will be a mature person, should something be done to stop her, if anything?

Originally posted by Darkruler2005:

[…] we believe beyond reasonable doubt that the child will be born, so it will become a person. […]

This is a good presupposition. Maybe I should put it as an AX.
Or this by darkfrogger: “She plans on carrying to term.”

Originally posted by jhco50:

Why would it matter TuJe. Life of the unborn means nothing to these people. Drugs, alcohol, they think it is the woman’s choice to harm the baby. The baby is of no importance and with the lack of morals or values the people on here haven’t got the capacity to really care. It is all about themselves.

Originally posted by MyTie:

It’s really amazing how quickly people insist that the distinction between a born child and an unborn child be made, as if, the unborn child is as inanimate and valueless as a toe nail clipping. So set, are people, that they are not even open to other possibilities being posited in a conversation.

I know that from pro-life point of view there is no difference… I know the stance. What I’m interested at is the different shades of the pro-choice view. Hence the question. I’m trying not to advocate either of the views, though the topic is kind of leaned towards those who hold the pro-choice view.

 
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Ah, abortion, the most hotly contended debate over privacy vs the reach of the law. Personally, I think that the woman’s choice is more important. But even better would be educating people on the use of contraception is more important. Yes, insurance companies, that means you should pay for it.

 
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Originally posted by Camoraz:

Although this isn’t entirely about the quote, I still feel as I have to point this out: How does alcohol, tobacco or drugs ‘benefit’ a mother, or any other person for that matter (Sides medical reasons for the mother, which causes everything to fly headlong into a huge puddle of gray)?

i just think that was important enough to quote.


if we’re talking about a prescription drug here, we have an arbitrary grey area. benifit of mother and of child should be weighed up against eachother.

but as much as i hate to impose conventions on others, when you are pregnant that unfortunately caries a lot of responsibility. perhaps even more than just being a parent. no way she can just go and risk anything to the person to be in it’s earliest developments inside her, just for a personal habit or conveniance or anything like that.

if she claims the pregnancy unwanted she really just should abort. even if you’d call that murder, it’s less severe than risking growth defects and brain-damage, for the same reason that condoms are.

…i guess that’s all i have to say. …mandatory rehab.

 
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1. Problem is that most substances mentioned that may cause harm, are not certain to cause harm.

2. Problem is that fetus are not certain to become healthy babies even if the substances in question are not consumed. This means the argument of the fetus just being a baby waiting to be born is fallacious. Together with Problem Nr. 1 it becomes highly questionable if Government intervention can be justified by the Chances.
Punishing or taking away rights for actions that may or may not cause damage to happen(risks) can be justified, but there is a certain balance that has to be met. Certain risks are involved in living and statistics can show surprising risks involved in regular actions.

3. Problem is that the amount of harm caused is often under the damage done by environmental factors caused by the fully legal actions of other members of the society. That means if you want to approach the subject justly this should not just be about the rights of mothers but society too. For example if you want to forbid mothers from smoking, its only honest to forbid all people from smoking where the smoke would/could be breathed in by a mother.

4. Problem is that many of the things mentioned are addictive substances themselves or part of ingrained personal habits. Those who can voluntarily stop should be applauded and congratulated. Many times it does not just take willpower but also luck in having the right circumstances to be able to pull this feat off. Punishing People who can´t pull off this feat is like punishing people for not winning the lottery.

5. Problem is that many substances mentioned are legal outside of a pregnancy. And this begs the question (especially considering problems 1-3) if a woman can be forced to choose between them and having a pregnancy.

 
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I agree, Johnny, which is why it must be absolutely certain the mother is damaging the fetus before action is taken (and not necessarily an immediate punishment: the mother may be unaware). Most of the times, though, it won’t be spotted before the baby is born.

And this begs the question (especially considering problems 1-3) if a woman can be forced to choose between them and having a pregnancy.

I was pondering about this bit, since I’m a little concerned on how much we should allow a mother to damage a fetus (whether willingly or not). If the mother causes the baby to be born with extreme disabilities (I’m not sure how possible this is, but just a what if), especially if it’s proven to be with intent, even if the fetus technically isn’t a person, shouldn’t the mother be punished regardless of that fact? And if found out before the baby is born, shouldn’t she be forced to quit? Once again, I agree that if there is no evidence the substance is damaging to the fetus, no action should be taken.

 
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I didn’t think about punishing the mother when I started this topic. What I was thinking when writing “should we take action against mothers” was whether they should be stopped from taking those substances (involuntary detoxification) during pregnancy (and when should we do that). But I’m all right about expanding the topic, can’t be a bad thing.

@Johnny:

1. Problem is that most substances mentioned that may cause harm, are not certain to cause harm.

How certain should it be then, that we should do something about it?

Certain risks are involved in living and statistics can show surprising risks involved in regular actions.

I myself am not very keen to make any decisions based on statistics. As for harming/disturbing a development of a fetus, a proper study should be made, in which all the other factions possibly harming the fetus are removed (or minimized) if possible. But I see what you mean there, and I see a possible slippery slope ahead…

 
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Originally posted by TuJe:

I didn’t think about punishing the mother when I started this topic. What I was thinking when writing “should we take action against mothers” was whether they should be stopped from taking those substances (involuntary detoxification) during pregnancy (and when should we do that). But I’m all right about expanding the topic, can’t be a bad thing.

The actions your talking about would include a lengthly imprisonment, with generally quite obvious negative effects on the economic and social life of those effected.

@Johnny:

1. Problem is that most substances mentioned that may cause harm, are not certain to cause harm.

How certain should it be then, that we should do something about it?

Considering that there are other factors to consider even 100% certainty would not be enough, to legitimize involuntary detoxification. But less than a statistical 5% chance(which most substances mentioned are far under) would make me say that anything that reduces the rights of the mother would be illegitimate without needing to consider the other factors.

Originally posted by Darkruler2005:

And this begs the question (especially considering problems 1-3) if a woman can be forced to choose between them and having a pregnancy.

I was pondering about this bit, since I’m a little concerned on how much we should allow a mother to damage a fetus (whether willingly or not). If the mother causes the baby to be born with extreme disabilities (I’m not sure how possible this is, but just a what if), especially if it’s proven to be with intent, even if the fetus technically isn’t a person, shouldn’t the mother be punished regardless of that fact? And if found out before the baby is born, shouldn’t she be forced to quit? Once again, I agree that if there is no evidence the substance is damaging to the fetus, no action should be taken.

Problem is even if its 100% certain, punishing the mother in this regard is equal to punishing people for damaging their own bodies and/or for damages that happen to a future person that was not certain to exist.
If your not willing to make laws governing these things for society in general i don´t see how you can make a case for doing so specifically for pregnant Mothers.

 
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Not certain to exist? Is it even a relevant requirement, though? The issue is whether or not the mother is doing it on purpose and/or knows that taking that action will damage the fetus. Ignoring person requirements for now, this would be the equivalent of saying it’s fine to punch an old man in the stomach who’s about to have a critical operation with a low success rate because it’s not certain he’ll be alive in the future (for the record, the fetus is alive, and does exist, it just isn’t a person, like animals).

And I’m beginning to feel you’re just attacking detailed exceptions and loopholes. If you find one, fine, I’ll adjust my opinion to reflect it in, but I don’t really think it’s going to make a major change in my argument.

 
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Originally posted by TuJe:

I didn’t think about punishing the mother when I started this topic. What I was thinking when writing “should we take action against mothers” was whether they should be stopped from taking those substances (involuntary detoxification) during pregnancy (and when should we do that). But I’m all right about expanding the topic, can’t be a bad thing.

@Johnny:

1. Problem is that most substances mentioned that may cause harm, are not certain to cause harm.

How certain should it be then, that we should do something about it?

Certain risks are involved in living and statistics can show surprising risks involved in regular actions.

I myself am not very keen to make any decisions based on statistics. As for harming/disturbing a development of a fetus, a proper study should be made, in which all the other factions possibly harming the fetus are removed (or minimized) if possible. But I see what you mean there, and I see a possible slippery slope ahead…

When a woman becomes pregnant she finds a doctor and has prenatal care. The doctor will take her off anything that will harm the baby. Even during nursing the mother will watch her intake of anything harmful to the baby. Of course you will hear arguments against this, but normally this is what happens.