A contingent of individuals and organizations are asking that the manslaughter conviction of Tayshea Aiwohi be overturned. Aiwohi’s conduct in deliberately smoking “ice” crystal methamphetamene during her pregnancy, up to and including the day of the child’s birth was determined to have caused the child’s death. The infant died from a fatal level of “ice” in his blood.
Aiwohi caused her son’s death as surely as if she had used a knife or any other weapon. Her plea and subsequent sentence of probation, is not “punishing women for failing to have healthy pregnancy outcomes,” as if she hadn’t eaten enough vegetables, taken vitamins or exercised. It was a lenient sentence imposed on a woman who consciously chose to ingest an illegal substance with knowledge that it would certainly be detrimental and possibly fatal to the health of her developing fetus, a woman who made that choice again and again, each time she held the “ice” pipe to her lips and inhaled.
The rationale for the appeal seeking to overturn the conviction suggests that it would frighten pregnant women away from healthcare. Women interested in having healthy babies are not smoking “ice.” How about the value of discouraging drug-addicted women from having babies, babies who are fated to die from their parent’s addiction, by way of neglect or abuse, or who suffer from mental and physical abnormalities and health related difficulties that may last their entire lives? Who are the victims here? The children usually are, and will continue to be should the Aiwohi decision not be upheld.
Is holding Aiwohi responsible for the death of her child a “terrible disregard for pregnant women reflecting a profound misunderstanding of the nature of drug dependency?” Or is our community demanding that she take responsibility for the choices that she made leading to the death of her child? If Aiwohi, robbed a bank, stole a car, burned a building, drove while stoned, or committed any other crime under the throes of her crystal meth addiction she would be no less culpable than she is today, responsible for the poisoning death of her son by her own hand. Let us not forget that the child, not the mother is the victim here.
”’Anne Clarkin, a resident of Hawaii, can be reached via at”’mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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