Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin says just because a woman wants to put her own life at risk with drugs, doesn't give her the right to endanger her unborn child. Entrekin says this must end. Women are being prosecuted for actions that endanger their unborn children.
Sheriff Entrekin says this problem is serious in Etowah County. Some fifty babies are born at Gads den Regional Medical Center annually to mothers who have been abusing a substance. He says he wants to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
"If you've ever been in a unit and watched them, seen a child born it's terrible to see them suffer and what they have to go through. The pain that they're in being born with an addiction," said Entrekin.
Entrekin says he is on a mission to address a problem that he's been monitoring for at least a year.
"If you've ever been in a unit and watched them, seen a child born it's terrible to see them suffer and what they have to go through. The pain that they're in being born with an addiction," he said.
"We hope we make a difference. We hope nationwide we make a difference," he said.
His plan: Any woman found to have delivered a baby with drugs in it's system is going to jail. That woman will be prosecuted for child endangerment, a class A felony.
Etowah County District Attorney, Jimmie Harp says he will prosecute each mother on a "case by case" basis. He will take factors into consideration like if the mother was a habitual user.
"There are different levels to this crime. Some of them are charged with a class a felony, which is a ten to ninety-nine sentence in prison. So you're looking at a probated ten year sentence to actually doing 99 years in the state penitentiary," said Harp.
DHR Director Teresa Sauls says her priority is making sure a baby is placed in a safe environment. She says foster care and adoption are possibilities in some cases. However, she says DHR also has a responsibility to the mothers.
"We also have a responsibility to work with that mother who has abused drugs and offer her treatment with the hope that she will change her behavior and be reunited with her baby," said Sauls.
Entrekin says he will go after mothers whether their babies were born alive or stillborn. Representatives from Gadsden Regional Medical Center say they support the Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's office in their efforts.