We have seen too many unfortunate incidences recently of negative reports on Kentucky’s poor standing among other states, followed immediately by vivid and heartbreaking evidence of our problems.
Earlier this month, The Courier Journal of Louisville published a story on a report from the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics showing that the rate of 15.1 children per 1,000 who are born addicted to drugs in the state is twice the national rate of 7.3. The rate climbed significantly during the study period.
Then a few days later, 14 women were indicted for taking methamphetamine at the Franklin County Regional Jail. One of the women was seven months pregnant and charged after admitting to not only taking and distributing the drug but also concealing it in such a way that it was found during a medical appointment.
The stunning nature of this case should not overshadow the fact that so many of our children are born into the most harsh circumstances one could imagine.
Knowledge about the effects of methamphetamine on a newborn and on their subsequent development is more scant than the effects of opioids. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse cites available research that indicates it can cause “premature delivery, placental abruption (separation of the placental lining from the uterus),” as well as “small size, lethargy, and heart and brain abnormalities.”
Our more common problem these days is opiates. In those cases, the first hours and days after drawing their first breaths are spent shaking uncontrollably while their systems are inundated with powerful drugs in an effort to get them through withdrawal symptoms.
Add the demonstrably harmful effects of prenatal tobacco use and so many of our children are being set up for a lifetime of problems they didn’t create.
Federal lawmakers are making choices that will directly impact women’s health choices and state legislators are zeroing in on curtailing abortions in the interest of protecting innocent life. They have so far been as quiet as they have been ineffective in dealing with what is more than another embracing statistic. Let’s call it what it is: a humanitarian crisis.
We aren’t suggesting the rapid-fire approach to making laws be loosed on this issue. It does warrant attention.
Of course, this isn’t a problem that legislation alone can fix. As with all the ancillary problems drugs — and the so-called war on them — have caused, it will take a complex combination of solutions and support.
Owning the reality that so many children are innocent victims of what many regard as a victimless crime is an important step. Awareness must then lead to action.
— Frankfort State Journal