A pregnant woman in Alabama was kept in jail for three months after officials learned that she had smoked weed — and she’s not the only one.
On May 25, 23-year-old Ashley Banks was was pulled over for a routine traffic stop when officers noticed a small amount of marijuana in her car. When she admitted that she had smoked weed two days earlier, the same day she found out she was pregnant, they threw her in jail without a trial.
According to The Guardian, there’s a law in Alabama that allows for this strange occurrence to take place. Unlike the majority of drug offenses where people have the option to post bail and leave, pregnant women are instead taken into state custody for the fetus’s protection.
Banks’ case is particularly egregious; at first, officers wanted her to be interned in a drug rehabilitation program. Upon examining her, workers at the center turned her away, believing that she was a casual marijuana user and thus not likely to reap the benefits of their service. This resulted in her three-month stint in jail.
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Banks’ pregnancy worsened while imprisoned. Having a family history of miscarriages and difficult pregnancies, Banks was often bleeding in jail and didn’t have any medical attention. She was forced to sleep in a cell where there were often too many women, resulting in her sleeping on the floor on one occasion. She isn’t the only one. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), Etowah county in Alabama has jailed 150 pregnant women in recent years, 12 of whom remain in jail.
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The Guardian argues that these decisions reinforce how the pro-life movement views women as less valuable than the fetuses they carry. “The movement claims to see embryos and fetuses as persons, and in practice they speak as if these “persons” are not women’s equals, but their superiors: the fetus is conceived of as more important than the woman, more worthy, less tainted by those things that make a pregnant woman so unappealing,” reads the article.
While Alabama is particularly harsh in its imprisonment rates and treatment of pregnant women, this problem will only continue to increase in the face Roe v. Wade being overturned. And while it might be harmful for pregnant women to consume marijuana, there is a big difference between consuming weed and consuming other drugs, something that federal law doesn’t take into account.