Drinking in pregnancy could be made criminal offence in the UK
Drinking during pregnancy could become a criminal offence in the UK, women's charities have said.
A council in the North West of England is seeking criminal injuries compensation for a six-year-old girl with "growth retardation" caused by her mother's alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
If the court agrees that the woman committed a crime it could pave the way for pregnant women's behaviour to be criminalised, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and Birthrights.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of bpas, and Rebecca Schiller, co-chair of Birthrights, said: "Making one particular form of behaviour during pregnancy into a criminal offence would lay the ground for criminalising a wide range of behaviours.
"When we consider that the taking of necessary medication, such as treatment for epilepsy or depression, could be seen to fall into the category of maternal behaviours that may damage the foetus, the trajectory of such an approach is deeply worrying.
"We should take very seriously any legal developments which call into question pregnant women's right to bodily autonomy."
The little girl was born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which can cause retarded growth, facial abnormalities and intellectual impairment.
But the charities claim there is "continuing uncertainty" over the relationship between drinking and the foetus.
They say that mothers and their babies would not be best served by treating pregnant women with drug or alcohol problems as criminals.