Alabama, a U.S. state that has also passed a near-total abortion ban, is now attempting to prosecute women for taking medication prescribed by doctors, seemingly against the recommendation of social services.
The case that could decide whether or not Alabama gets to prosecute pregnant people for following the advice of doctors rests on one woman, Kim Blalock. Blalock is a mother of six with debilitating arthritis and degenerative disc disease who suffered a car accident and complications from surgery before becoming pregnant who told her doctor post-delivery that she had taken hydrocodone prescribed by a doctor in the last six weeks of her pregnancy. Blalock’s honesty with her doctor triggered social services investigation, arrest, and months of harassment by the police, who barged into her house with loaded weapons on a search warrant while her two teens were home alone. Per al.com:
“[Blalock’s disclosure] triggered a brief investigation by the Department of Human Resources, which closed the case after Blalock showed them the prescription bottle and allowed a case worker to count the pills. But that didn’t satisfy the Florence Police Department or Lauderdale County District Attorney’s Office, which investigated and charged Blalock with prescription fraud for not telling her orthopedist she was pregnant.”
Currently, Alabama law stipulates that those who give birth to a baby that tests positive for drugs can face prosecution, but the law is intended to prevent harm to fetuses caused by fumes from meth labs (though it undoubtedly does nothing in that capacity either). This would be the first time a person has been prosecuted for failing to tell a doctor that they were not pregnant, despite not being asked, and the fact that Blalock was clearly pregnant when she had her doctor’s appointment through the window of her car due to the pandemic. Her son also seemingly suffered no adverse effects from the hydrocodone, and is hitting all his milestones right on time.
Blalock has been charged with fraud for failing to disclose her pregnancy, which her attorneys have rightly pointed out defies all definitions of that word:
“Roth and Blalock’s other attorneys have asked for the charges to be dropped. Attorneys at National Advocates for Pregnant Women regularly handle criminal cases from around the country involving pregnant women. If Blalock is convicted, Sussman said it means any woman in Alabama could be arrested if she doesn’t inform her doctor she is pregnant before refilling or receiving a prescription – whether or not she is asked.”
In a state that is so concerned with policing pregnant people’s bodies that legislators are nearly beside themselves to make it nearly impossible to obtain a legal abortion, the new move to arrest those who take any medication during pregnancy seems a bit suspicious. Medication abortions, which can be done via telehealth appointments and are completely safe, have been on the rise in recent years, due to both the pandemic and the mass closures of abortion clinics across America. Earlier this month, an organization called If/When/How launched a fund for the legal defenses of those prosecuted for self-managed abortion.
For her part, Blalock, who had to hold off buying her children Christmas presents because she worried she might need the money for bail, is still trying to make sense of what is happening to her family:
“I thought if a doctor wrote you a prescription, you can take it,” Blalock said. “If not, there needs to be posters everywhere in the doctor’s office that says, if you’re pregnant, and the doctor prescribes you something, you still may not be able to take it.”