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Paltrow, Lynn M. “The War on Drugs and the War on Abortion: Some Initial Thoughts on the Connections, Intersections and Effects.” Reproductive Health Matters 10, no. 19 (May 2002): 162–70.


Written from a pro-choice, anti-criminalization of drug use perspective, this article gives an overview of the similarities between social and political discourse around drugs and abortion. The author lays out the following broad areas of commonalities between the war on drugs and the war on abortion: using racist and sexist ideology to justify control and punishment; preventing the distribution of information about drugs and reproductive health; limiting access to reproductive health care and drug treatment; disseminating misleading data on drug and teen pregnancy ‘epidemics’; using simplistic and inaccurate prevention messaging; and creating a false sense of choice around both pregnancy and addiction. Utilizing a range of legal cases and sociological literature, the author argues that oppressive drug control and reproductive policy coalesce in the mistreatment of pregnant, drug-using women and their children.       Taking a clear stance against the criminalization of mothers who use drugs, the author makes a case that current policy is both expensive and harmful to women and their families. The article points out that racist enforcement of laws, combined with economic inequities and lack of access to full range of reproductive health services, means that current policy harms all women but harms African-American women most of all. Offering a solid overview of the issues around pregnancy and drug use, this is a good first read for practitioners and students who are interested in the subject but come to the topic with little background information. 


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Legislation/policy   Government regulation   Abortion   Pregnancy   Health disparities