01/15/12 Lynn Paltrow

Lynn Paltrow of Advocates for Pregnant Women + Cliff Schaffer editor of Drug Library

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Guest: 
Lynn Paltrow
Organization: 
Advocates for Pregnant Women
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Century of Lies / January 15, 2012

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DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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DEAN BECKER: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m Dean Becker. Here in just a couple of seconds we’re going to bring in our guest.

Let me tell you about her. Heads up- National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Just recently 50 leading public health and child welfare organizations and experts have filed a brief insisting on science, not stigma, in child welfare decisions involving pregnant women and allegations of drug use. With that, let’s welcome our guest, Lynn Paltrow. How are you, Lynn?

LYNN PALTROW: Real good. Thanks for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: I think this is a very important topic that needs more air time, needs more understanding and it needs changed. Tell us a little bit, if you will, about this release and why you guys banded together to bring it forward.

LYNN PALTROW: We work at the intersection of the War on Drugs and the war on pregnant women’s constitutional personhood. We’ve noticed that particularly in the area of child welfare drug war propaganda, medical misinformation, myths and stereotypes have, for the last 20 years, infiltrated child welfare decisions so that courts are making decisions about families and breaking up families based on absolutely unsubstantiated and actually false claims about drugs, their effects on pregnant women, their effects on parenting and their effects on families.

This case in New Jersey gave us the opportunity on behalf of 50 leading organizations to say to the New Jersey Supreme Court, “Stop. It’s time that you apply the principles of science, of the rules of evidence that you have mandated in criminal cases and civil cases for companies, for criminal defendants. Both cases apply to pregnant women and families as well. If you’re going to intrude on family life in America it can’t be done based on junk science or no science.”

DEAN BECKER: If I could kind of fill in the blanks or my understanding perhaps for the listeners as well…the fact of the matter is there is the blanket that’s thrown over a drug user. The incapable, incompetent bad parent despite the fact that they may otherwise behaved admirably. Is that it?

LYNN PALTROW: I think that the best way to think about this is lots and lots of people drink alcohol. Lots of parents drink alcohol. Most of them are taking care of their children more than adequately.

Certainly people have health problems. Sometimes that have to do with addiction but most people who use drugs and drink alcohol are people who are employed and they’re people who are perfectly capable and actually do take care of their children.

There have been, since the late 1980s, all sorts of newspaper stories promoting the idea that if a pregnant woman takes any amount of a criminalized drug she will inevitably harm her future child. That those drugs not will harm but they pose significantly greater risk of harm than many other substances.

What the leading experts in this brief said first of all is that the research doesn’t say that the use of criminalized drugs by pregnant women is benign but the risk of harm is not greater in magnitude or likelihood than many, many other exposures and conditions and circumstances that pregnant women find themselves in.

In fact the evidence of potential harm from cigarettes is greater. The evidence of potential harm from massive use of alcohol are greater and things like poverty and obesity effect far more pregnant women than any of the criminalized drugs.

So the idea that you can assume harm because you know that a pregnant woman took some amount of a criminalized drug absolutely has no basis in science and no basis in fact.

The idea that we can predict that drug users are more likely, once they have children, to abuse them is something that’s widely and popularly believed but we started looking at the social science research and it really doesn’t exist. The study that’s most frequently cited is a self-published report by Joe Califano and his group of Columbia. It was a survey of people in the court system, the juvenile court system, and their opinion drugs had a lot to do with seeing an increase in child welfare cases. But their own survey and report found that those people were the least qualified and the least well-trained to make decisions, judgments about drug use and addiction.

They are actually studies that found that people who…pregnant women who have used drugs and given birth aren’t more likely to hurt their children than anybody else. They are…once you’ve identified somebody as a drug user, they are likely to have used drugs again in the future but not to have beaten or tortured or hurt their children.

We have to take a much closer look at what’s happening in real families before the state comes in and interrogates and imposes all kinds of surveillance and, in fact, takes their kids away.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we’re speaking with Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there were 50 leading medical public health and child welfare organizations and experts filing this brief and it’s not the first time that a cohesion of professional minds have spoken out against this propaganda war, if you will.

There was a major New York Times OPED, it’s been a couple years back now, where the propaganda, the hysteria about crack babies was disputed by some doctors, right?

LYNN PALTROW: Right. Dr. Wendy Chapman, many years ago, had a wonderful OPED piece in the Times challenging the assumption that pregnant women don’t want treatment. And, in fact, finding that back in 1989 virtually every treatment program in New York City either said if you have a drug problem and receive Medicaid we won’t take you. Basically pregnant women were shut out.

That’s not as true today. But what is true is that we live in a country where the people who do need treatment…There’s no place, no state in the entire country where everybody who actually needs treatment and wants can get it.

What tends to happen is every time another bed is made available rather than being able to celebrate that and be grateful that one more person who may need that treatment and can get it, it becomes a weapon against everyone else who can’t get in.

They say, “Well, you should have gotten in. See, there was one bed and if you don’t we can use that against you.”

What the medical groups also did and have done is expose myths associated with crack and cocaine and pregnancy. There is no specific, predictable syndrome of harm that occurs as a result of exposure prenatally to cocaine. Again, the scientists aren’t going to say it’s completely benign and don’t worry about it but they absolutely have….to the extent they have found harm have been subtle effects is what they call them. And other people have not been able to find any.

What the research also does show, and it should be the greatest concern across all ideology, is over and over again they find that when women are threatened with punishment, with going to jail, with the loss of losing custody of their children, is the thing that they do is go into hiding. Some of them stop; coming for prenatal care. Those who continue to go for prenatal care aren’t communicating openly with their doctors and other health care providers. They’re not communicating with their friends and neighbors who might be able to help them reduce harmful drug use.

All of that is far worse for maternal, fetal and child health than recognizing the drug problem they may or may not have as a health problem that can be addressed but isn’t criminal or civil child abuse.

DEAN BECKER: I realize the focus of your group is no pregnant women. We touched on this briefly and, the fact of the matter is, young mothers who maybe smoke a joint once in a while face many of the same situations and can lose their children for even minor amounts, right?

LYNN PALTROW: Absolutely. We worked with…people really don’t understand how the criminal “injustice” system works and how while there are good people in every system the child welfare system is focused very much on low-income families and it’s focused disproportionately on familes of color. Once a person is identified as a drug user the surveillance is extraordinary and you can lose your kids. Not for hurting them, not for harming them, not for not taking care of them or loving them but simply for having a positive drug test.

It is absolutely junk science to suggest that you can have somebody pee in a cup and use that test result to tell how much they love their children – whether they care for them and whether they are putting their children first in their lives.

DEAN BECKER: There is hope on the horizon I think. The major newspapers and broadcasters are beginning to examine this policy of drug prohibition, are beginning to dispel many of the rumors and lies. Your response, Lynn Paltrow.

LYNN PALTROW: We have seen a great deal of progress and resilience and persistence by drug policy reformers, by people challenging prohibition and we are finally seeing some of what’s going on in the child welfare system being challenged.

I think we have a very long way to go. The child welfare system for many families is so destructive and so intrusive whether it’s about drug issues or not. So much of the child welfare system is really about poverty because those are the families that are caught in it and rather than ensuring that family has adequate health insurance and basic income support and a safe roof over their heads we will pay to take children away from their parents and put them in somebody else’s house.

That doesn’t make any sense in a country that claims to so highly value families and want to protect them. And yet, particularly for low-income families with the War on Drugs, by putting so many fathers and mothers in jails and prisons and then destroying their families and creating such extraordinary stress.

You know, people think that if they take your kid you can at least visit them but what that could mean is the child is put in foster care on the opposite side of the city for which you don’t have transportation. They may say you have the right to visit your child but if you’re county or your town has a budget cut, they can say to you, “You can’t visit your kid because we don’t have somebody to sit in the room and start at you while you try to reconnect with your own child.”

It includes very, very dysfunctional system for the families. Are there cases, rare cases where there are parents who are actually abusing their children and hurting them? Absolutely. I don’t think any study has found those families to be more likely to use criminalized drugs than other families.

Is there a reason for the state to step in in those cases where children are actually being harmed? Absolutely. But that system where those children would be far better protected if so many other children who ought to be with their parents rather than being separated from them and then subjecting their parents to this extraordinary amount of supervision and state intrusion.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, friends, we’re speaking with Lynn Paltrow of Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Lynn, I want to ask you. After a marijuana-using or drug-using mother gives birth I think her placenta is taken for examination. Is it tested perhaps without the mother’s knowledge?

LYNN PALTROW: I’m not sure that they’re testing the placenta. They’ll test a lot of things. They generally do not ask for consent and it is one of the many things that is sort of remarkable that pregnant women, in fact, seem to treated as less entitled to their rights and to being valued as “full persons” under the law.

One of the very most interesting things is, as you well know, lots of employers, hospitals included, drug test job applicants and their employees. The research on the value of doing that doesn’t support it but they do it. But they tend to do it according to the federal drug testing workplace regulations which requires notice of the person being tested. It requires that if it is positive the person have an opportunity to explain. It requires that if positive the person has the opportunity to retest that sample.

Guess what? ! None of those protections apply to pregnant women. So pregnant women who are patients in a hospital where they expect confidentiality and privacy have fewer protections of accuracy and consent for drug testing than for somebody applying for a job at the same hospital.

DEAN BECKER: It is representative of the fact that women and especially pregnant women are singled out and given less opportunity to clarify the situation, right?

LYNN PALTROW: Absolutely and I think that for those who are involved in drug policy reform they are questioned sometimes about where are the women because women, like others, certainly use criminalized drugs like everyone else. The drug most often used is marijuana.

If you love your children and virtually every parent does, you’re not going to speak out if you’re being threatened with having that child being taken away. I do imagine someday organizing a protest outside of family courts because particularly low-income families, white families in certain rural areas, people of color disproportionately in many communities are threatened and have actually had their children removed based only on the fact that the person continues to smoke marijuana.

Where are all the privileged white people standing out in front of those family court houses saying, “Why aren’t you testing me? Why aren’t you taking my kids away?”

A drug test cannot show that you have not cared for your kids. What they do is they require parents, if they want to keep their kids, to have regular drug tests, to go to drug treatment whether they need it or not. And in the context of treatment whether somebody actually needs it or does not need it at all – they have to give up every ounce of confidentiality.

So the kind of treatment that middle-class and upper-class people expect – treatment that guarantees confidentiality so that you can trust your therapist so if there is a problem associated with your drug use you might be able to address it. But by the mere fact that you are in the child welfare system you are required to give up every ounce of confidentiality.

If you find that your counselor is not helping you or, worse, that they are just not good at their job – you may not get rid of that person. You have to stay and talk to that person or you many never see your child again.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Lynn, we are flat out of time. Please share your website with the listeners and let’s hope that they recognize the need for them to get involved.

LYNN PALTROW: It is http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/ It is really a pleasure to talk to you and to have the opportunity to see how the War on Drugs is used as a wedge to undermine family life in this country.

DEAN BECKER: Lynn Paltrow, thank you so much.

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CLIFF SCHAFFER: My name is Cliff Shaffer and I’m the founder of the Shaffer Online Library of Drug Policy at http://www.druglibrary.org/

DEAN BECKER: Cliff, 2012 is just hatching out of its shell here and Ron Paul has kind of brought the subject of drug reform to the fore but a lot of folks around the country, Hell – around the world, are starting to take another look at this. Are they not?!

CLIFF SCHAFFER: Absolutely. We’re right at a turning point in history. Within the next 5 years I think we’re going to see huge changes.

DEAN BECKER: Canada’s kind of flip flopping with the way they do things. Great Britain is as well. Obama has kind of flip flopped on some of the things he said which is actually motivated a bunch of folks as well, don’t you think?!

CLIFF SCHAFFER: Actually I don’t think Obama really said anything. I’m a little bit cynical and skeptical of any organizational statements and it looked to me like there was enough room in what Obama said about medical marijuana or actually what Eric Holder said about medical marijuana that they’ll still run things the way they want and business as usual it will be.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, well, what did we expect, right?

The thing that’s circulating…I know I’m trying to motivate my listeners, trying to motivate all of drug reform to do a little more. That’s been my job all along. But I think now’s the time. The iron is hot and it is time to strike. Your thought?

CLIFF SCHAFFER: I think so too. Polls are showing that we are getting a clear majority in favor of the legalization of marijuana. For a long time a clear majority has said the Drug War is a failure. I think we’re getting very close to the point where some major state initiative is going to pass and when it passes it’s going to be very apparent that the federal government can no longer maintain this policy.

DEAN BECKER: Not so much Kerlikowske but a couple of his junior drug czars, if you will, have been putting forward postulations claiming that two extremes involved here and that there’s no middle ground at all, no room to even begin to change. Your thought there.

CLIFF SCHAFFER: The person I believe you’re referring to is a guy named Kevin Sabet. When I saw his first article on it my first thought was that this article should be followed by an article on racial tolerance next week written by the head of the KKK.

What you really have to do is look at the long history of people that Kevin Sabet and those come from. Started with the Richman Pierce Hobson way back in the 1920s who was blatantly in it to support his own political career. And then you go to Harry Anslinger who made all kinds of ridiculous statements. Then you have people like Dr. James C. Munch who served as a U.S. official expert on marijuana for 25 years and testified in court that marijuana would turn you into a bat.

So now comes Kevin Sabet with this latest set of excuses – well, OK, look where it comes form.

DEAN BECKER: My thought is for years, Hell decades, we’ve been facing down their lions, we’ve been dealing with their postulations and challenges when the truth is we need to just do away or ignore it and go at them with full vigor because they have no leg to stand on.

I sent out an email just a little while ago that goes something like this that in lieu of all of the fallout of U.S. drug policy - which includes the enrichment of our terrorist enemies, 45,000 Mexicans dead in the last 5 years and the creation of more than 30,000 violent U.S. gangs that sell contaminated drugs to our children at a 17,000% markup – what is the benefit of drug war that offsets all this horrible blowback. I think that’s the question that drug czars ought to really fear. Your thought.

CLIFF SCHAFFER: That is the one question that has never been answered in any legislative hearing since 1914 but they give an answer like, “It stops the major drug epidemics. It keeps our children from being addicted.” And that sort of thing.

Which, of course, is not true and it never had anything to do with the laws anyway. You are guaranteed that any excuse you hear for drug prohibition today is something that was made up in about the last 20 years - because none of these reasons that they state ever had anything to do with the law. None of these reasons were ever mentioned in the legislative hearings.

DEAN BECKER: Well, right. Turn into a bat, grow 6-inch fangs – all of this stuff and nobody challenged it. It’s just amazing.

CLIFF SCHAFFER: Yeah. My favorite is the story of the unnamed high school girl who said that she knew another girl who smoked a joint with her boyfriend and they became so crazy that the eloped and got married.

This was one of the reasons they stated for the Marijuana Tax Act. That’s why marijuana is illegal. That’s one of the reasons because it makes young lovers elope and get married.

DEAN BECKER: Was it…I think North Dakota/SouthDakota….i think somebody said something to the affect that you give one of these beet workers a couple of tokes of a reefer and the next thing you know he thinks he’s elected President of Mexico and sets out to kill all of his enemies.

CLIFF SCHAFFER: Exactly. I believe the same person said that once they smoke a joint they think they’re a bowlegged Barcelona in Spain - never mind the fact that they’re from Mexico and not from Spain.

DEAN BECKER: I guess the thing of it is is that these people who crafted these laws, who implement these laws, who maintain these laws, whether law enforcement or the justice department – they like the power. What’s your thought? Why don’t more politicians and officials speak out?

CLIFF SCHAFFER: For a long time there was very active federal campaign to punish anyone who did speak out against American drug policy. A good example of that was Rufus King who was a former head of the American Bar Association. In 1961 he formed a committee with the American Medical Association to study American drug policy.
The results were not well liked by Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, so Anslinger came down on him like a ton of bricks and, not only that, but Anslinger wrote up his own “so-called” study with a nearly identical title to Rufus King’s study and went to all kinds of extreme measures to get King’s study out of the libraries and replace it with Anslinger’s.

So part of it is there’s been a very active campaign by the federal government for many decades to deliberately suppress anybody who disagreed with American drug policy. It continues today, in fact, there’s a law that says federal employees cannot say anything in favor of legalization.

DEAN BECKER: It’s amazing. Well, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Cliff Schaffer. Cliff, one more time, share that website with the listeners. This is where you can get to the heart of this – to the truth.

CLIFF SCHAFFER: http://www.druglibrary.org/ or search for the Schaffer library. It’s on the web it contains the full text of every major drug commission for the last 100 years, numerous histories, hundreds of original historical documents and a lot of other stuff. All full text so you don’t have to take my word for what it says – you can read it yourself.

It is a ridiculous story how we got these laws.

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(music)

DEAN BECKER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Abolitionist Moment.

Prohibition is an awful flop. We like it.

It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop. We like it.

It’s left a trail of graft and slime. It don’t prohibit worth a dime.

It’s filled our land with vice and crime…nevertheless, we’re for it.

Franklin Adams, 1931

Through a willing or silent embrace of drug war we are ensuring more death, disease, crime and addiction.

Some have prospered from a policy of drug prohibition and dare not allow their stance taken to be examined in a new light.

But, for the rest, ignorance and superstition will eventually be forgiven.

What Houston has done, in the name of drug war, will never be forgotten.

Please visit http://endprohibition.org Do it for the children.

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, my friends, thank you for joining us here on Century of Lies. Next week we’ll have the DA of the fourth largest city in America, Pat Lycos, on the Cultural Baggage show.

I want to thank Lynn Paltrow. I urge you to visit http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/ and I want you to please keep in mind yo are the solution. You gotta do your part to end this madness. And, as always, I remind you Prohibido istac evilesco!

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For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

Drug Truth programs archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org