By Ivan Kipp
During the Youth and Government State Conference on January, 25th, in Austin, Texas, delegate Sanjana Dandu proposed to charge pregnant women with child endangerment if they were abusing substances that are capable of doing damage to the embryo. Delegate Dandu wrote and presented the bill in the Hyde House.
Delegate Dandu stated her great concerns for the future health of unborn children. In her introduction, she said “any form of alcohol [or drug use] during pregnancy is harmful,” and that this “is a very prominent issue in Texas”. The ultimate goal of this bill is to prevent mothers from abusing substances during their pregnancy “so that way no birth effects from alcohol or drug abuse” occur.
In Section II, the bill contains a list of penalties that apply to the mother if they are found to be consuming these substances which include three punishments. The first is being charged with child endangerment, and the second penalty terminates the mother’s parental rights to the child. There are also guidelines that the hospitals have to follow also including three offenses if the hospital does not administer all tests to the pregnant women. The first will be a warning from the state to the hospital, then a cut in funding in addition to the suspension of the practician for no more than 2 weeks, and finally a forced shutdown of the hospital by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Bill HH010 was subject to many questions concerning the custody of the children as well as other inquiries. One delegate asked, “[do the] fathers have rights to the kid or does the foster care system?”. The author replied that if there is a father or other family members able to take the child if the mother has her parental rights revoked, then they are considered first and foster care will be considered the last emergency option.
Six amendments were presented, but only one succeeded to pass. The passing amendment pushed one of the drug tests from the first trimester to the middle of the second trimester. One delegate argued in opposition to the amendment that extending the date increases the probability of disability when the child is born, but the amendment passed regardless.
The delegates present were very divided on the bill. One opponent argued that the mother shouldn’t lose custody after only two failed tests, but the author stressed the importance of the safety of the unborn child. A fellow delegate for the bill said that “many babies are dying because moms are taking drugs,” and strongly encouraged the delegates to pass the bill to ensure the future health of the babies.
The bill was passed in the Hyde House on January 25th and will continue to proceed through hearings in the near future.