Beliefnet
Everyday Ethics

As a single girl, I must admit breastfeeding stories don’t often catch my eye. So, please forgive me for being a little late on the “let’s lynch the drunken breastfeeding mother” bandwagon.

Honestly, I’m reluctant to lynch the guilty mother, Stacey Anvarinia, at all. After reading this Boston Globe article, I found several pieces of information to be disturbing. To summarize the situation…after responding to a domestic disturbance call made by Anvarinia, officers found her intoxicated. When she started breastfeeding in front of them, they considered this child endangerment and arrested her.

Now, the bits of the story that bother me:

1) Apparently, the arresting officers never conducted a blood-alcohol test.

2) Drinking while breastfeeding is a controversial subject; there’s no definitive medical standard for how much is too much. With a standard that unclear and no blood-alcohol test, what is the exact crime?

3) One of the officers is quotes as saying, “This case is more than just the breast-feeding. It was the totality of the circumstances,” said Grand Forks Police Lt. Rahn Farder. “It is quite unusual for a mother to be breast-feeding her child as we are conducting an investigation, whether she was intoxicated or not.” (I may be single and a long way from motherhood, but that statement just plain raises my hackles).

Well, those are all questions regarding legalities; for the purposes of this blog, I have questions regarding the ethics of her punishment. Anvarinia faces up to 5 years in prison for child neglect.

What is an ethical resolution to this type of situation? Given the unclear standard of harm to the baby, is it better to leave the child in its mother’s care but under probation and with supervision? Or separate mother and child completely by sending the mother away for years?

I fall on the side of keeping mother with child, under probation. If we are to judge her on this act alone, then give her a chance at redemption. I’m judging ethics in this case on the standard of harm; the weight of the crime versus the weight of separating mother and infant seems disproportionate to me.

What do you think?
 

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