2004 May 11 Tuesday
Judge Orders Drug Abusing Couple: Have No More Children

A judge in a New York County says 4 babies by a drug abusing couple are quite enough.

In six years, a cocaine-addicted, unwed and oftenhomeless Rochester couple has had four children and lost them all to foster care.

Enough is enough, a judge has ruled.

In a decision that could be the first of its kind in the nation, Monroe County Family Court Judge Marilyn L. O’Connor has ordered the couple to have no more children until they’re reunited with the children they already have and prove they can take care of them.

From the court ruling:

Regarding the third and fourth additional conditions, it is the intention of the court that the mother be required to not get pregnant until all of her children are being raised by a natural parent, or are no longer being cared for at the expense of the public. It is similarly the intention of the court that the father be required to not father another child until all his children are being raised by a natural parent, or are no longer being cared for at the expense of the public. It is further the intention of the court that neither parent shall conceive another child until found capable of having custody of all their current children. In other words, the respondents shall be required to act like responsible parents and for the duration of the order, to have no more children unless they can parent them themselves. Thus, the third and fourth additional ordering paragraphs shall state:

ORDERED that effective upon the date of personal service of a copy of this order upon respondent Stephanie P. and so long as this order or an extension of it is in effect, the respondent Stephanie P. shall not get pregnant again until and unless she has actually obtained custody and care of Bobbijean P. and every other child of hers who is in foster care and has not been adopted or institutionalized; and it is further

ORDERED that effective upon the date of service of a copy of this order upon respondent Rodney E. Sr. and so long as this order or an extension of it is in effect, the respondent Rodney E. Sr. shall not father any other child or children until and unless he has actually obtained custody and care of Bobbijean P. and every other child of his who is in foster care and has not been adopted or institutionalized or had custody granted to another party; . . .

Judge O'Connor's ruling about the "no-parent family" problem is tragically accurate in too many cases.

It is painfully obvious that a parent who has already lost to foster care all 4 of her children born over a 6-year period, with the last one having been taken from her even before she could leave the hospital, should not get pregnant again soon, if ever. She should not have yet another child which must be cared for at public expense before she has proven herself able to care for other children. The same is true for the father and his children. As to both parents, providing care for the children includes providing financial support. This is a practical, social, economic and moral reality. In effect, Bobbijean was born to a "no-parent family". She is for all practical purposes motherless and fatherless. This is not acceptable. All babies deserve more than to be born to parents who have proven they cannot possibly raise or parent a child. This neglected existence is an immense burden to place on a child and on society. The cycle of neglect often created by such births needs to stop. Our society has reached the breaking point with respect to raising neglected children, often born with extraordinary needs. One only need look at our schools, our jails, our Division of Human and Health Services budgets, and our Family Courts to see that a serious change of direction is necessary in the interests of children, the taxpayers, and the community as a whole.

How can you argue with that? Of course, the usual loonies are all upset.

”What the judge has done here is highly unusual,” said Anna Schissel, staff attorney for the Reproductive Rights Project of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “I don’t know of any precedent that would permit a judge to do this. And even if there were a precedent, it … violates the United States Constitution and the New York Constitution.

People like Ms. Schissel give the US Constitution a bad reputation that I do not think it deserves. Would the Founding Fathers have supported a right for drug addicts to have babies that are messed up in the womb by drugs and then abused and neglected after birth? I figure the Founding Fathers were sensible men who would understand that damaging embryos and babies and then inevitably inflicting society with the resulting costs is at minimum impractical, obviously immoral and that to support a supposed "right" to do this is even quite insane. It is time to call the nutcases what they are: nutcases. The ACLU crowd ran out of worthwhile causes and so have turned their attention toward promoting causes that are deeply harmful to the health of society. Irresponsible nuts. Shame on them.

Back in the realm of sanity the favorite charity for venture capitalist and philanthropist Jim Woodhill is the organization Project Prevention (a.k.a. C.R.A.C.K) which offers money to drug addict and alcoholic women to receive Norplant implants or sterilization (their choice) so that they stop getting pregnant while strung out. Founder Barbara Harris has adopted 4 babies that were born to the same addict mother and she decided to start providing financial incentives for addicts to take steps to become infertile for long periods of time. I think the charity is a great idea.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 May 11 02:16 AM  Civilizations Decay

mal said at May 11, 2004 11:03 AM:


OT: Interesting Article

gcochran said at May 11, 2004 6:05 PM:

There's not much evidence that there even is such a thing as a 'crack baby', in the sense of serious long-term neurological problems associated with prebirth exposure to cocaine. The kids are dumb, but that's heredity.

In principle exposure to toxins before birth can have such an effect, and I can of some toxins that _do_ have strong effects of that kind, but cocaine isn't one of them.

I mentioned this to Woodhill long ago, but he's not big on listening. Or thinking.

Randall Parker said at May 11, 2004 6:59 PM:

Greg, Methamphetamine abuse is widespread. Some of Jim's donations are probably going to meth users. Meth is a very serious neurotoxin. Check out my Brain Addiction archive where I have some posts about brain damage caused by various addictive drugs.

As for cocaine: I'm aware of the 1990s studies that claimed the risk was overstated. I was skeptical of those studies then since coke is obviously a neurotoxin. I had a hard time imagining how it wouldn't cause lasting effects. I've since come across some more recent reports that found evidence for lasting effects. Some of this is in animal models because more can be done with them obviously. See, for instance, this 2002 paper Developmental toxicity of cocaine exposure in mid-pregnancy mice. Also see this other 2002 report: Using Cocaine During Pregnancy May Damage Developing Fetuses, Causing Lifelong Learning Disabilities. For a human study see also from 2002 At 2 years, cocaine babies suffer cognitive development effects.

Brock said at May 12, 2004 6:44 AM:

Very interesting.

Personally, I was interested in the method of enforcement. The Judge did not order any kind of sterilization or birth control (such as Norplant). The only thing stopping this couple from having another child is the threat of contempt. Given that they're a pair of crack-heads I don't think that's going to be very effective. Maybe it will. Maybe it will get through to them. But if this practice were adopted on a larger scale, I imagine there would be a lot of contempt charges.

Of course, the Judge doesn't have the authority to force any kind of birth control, but that's not where I'm going.

What will happen if this woman gets pregnant again? Another child in foster care, and now the parents possibly in jail. Both would represent huge costs on the public finances. Once the parents were out of jail they could very well end up on the street again, only to get pregnant again. The only logical conclusion (if the Judge really wants to accomplish her goals) is to enforce a reversible sterilization until the parents are cleaned up and they earn their kids back.

I'm not endorsing my alternative strategy, but it appears that the strategy chosen can only lead to worse results.

I think the source of our tragedy is our own society. We have created a government that has severe restrictions on its ability to invade the various freedoms of the people. On balance this is a very good thing, but the system fails for individual people when they themselves are incapable of responsiby managing their lives.

The point about the founding fathers is spot on. Rather than be only concerned with abstract principles of freedom, we must also consider the moral character of our towns & people.

John S Bolton said at May 12, 2004 10:23 PM:

There isn't any right to freedom for aggression, and any tradition which says otherwise, is wrong. The mother committed aggression on the baby, or on the fetus, which became literal aggression upon the birth of the victim, therefore the state must take vengeance on her. The most perfect justice would be served by offering permanent sterilization as an alternative to a prison sentence of several decades. It is fitted to the crime in a way no other retribution could be. All sorts of problems caused by damaged people would be avoided if such a policy were widely followed. Yet, who would need to inquire what the reaction to such a policy would be, from those who falsely and propagandistically pretend to be the advocates of the poor and the deprived and oppressed?

Invisible Scientist said at May 13, 2004 12:17 AM:

Although the neurotoxins should be forbidden for parents planning to have
children (it is known that crack cocaine contaminates even the male sperm,
causing damage to the baby), it is also known that certain natural nutrients
such as choline, if eaten by the pregnant mother, dramatically enhance
the memory and intelligence of the baby. I think that the government should
conduct a study that examines how the mental capacity of the babies
can be enhanced for future generations, what kind of pregnancies, what kind
of impregnation, etc., have a natural positive influence on the future generations.

BTW, I feel that this aspect of government regulation, is connected with
National Security for the USA. The average mental capacity of the population,
will determine the competitiveness and even the survival of nations in the

John S Bolton said at June 27, 2004 2:32 AM:

If someone sends a poisoned gift of food, and the victim dies nine months later, isn't that deliberate murder, if it was done deliberately? Similarly, if one sends deliberately poisoned food to a woman who turns out to be pregnant, and if the poison has no effect on her, but causes her baby to die some weeks after birth, isn't that murder, and such as should be severely punished? If the mother causes the same poisoning, through negligence, such that the baby dies one week after birth, this is an obvious case of negligent manslaughter, which cannot morally be left unpunished. The question of national security seems rather removed from the more relevant consideration of the need for state counter-aggression against those who are known to have committed an act of aggression, involving high damage.

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