According to a Waikato Times article, Pregnant teen told to consider unborn baby, a pregnant 18-year-old woman has been told off by a judge for compromising the welfare of her unborn child.
The 18-year-old woman had been part of a group joyriding in a stolen car, driven by her partner. A high-speed chase ensued, during which the car's occupants lobbed stuff at the Police. The woman was done for unlawfully getting into a vehicle - fair enough.
What disturbs me, though, is that the fact the woman was pregnant was considered by the judge to have aggravated her offending. The judge told the woman she needed to 'clean up her act'. This bothers me for a bunch of reasons:
1) If there's any legal precedent for pregnancy being an aggravating factor for offending, I don't know of it (but I'd love to hear from any commentators with more knowledge of the law). I'm not even sure what this means - that women who offend when pregnant ought to be dealt with more harshly? If so, why? It's obviously not a good or ethical idea for a woman to compromise the health of her unborn child, but as far as I know, there's no law against it.
2) The unborn baby was just one life endangered during the high-speed chase. The judge's remark implies that the woman's welfare matters only insofar as her unborn child depends on her. At 18, the mother is not much more than a kid herself - and being young and pregnant can be pretty hard. This woman may need pastoral care, support and understanding herself.
3) Judges aren't qualified or employed to give people life advice. It really irks me that this judge took the opportunity to give the 18-year-old woman a public dressing down. A smarter, more ethical thing to do would have been hooking her up with support services actually equipped to support young, pregnant women.
I strongly feel that the way to help women care for themselves and their unborn children during pregnancy is through compassion, understanding and support. A punitive or belittling response to a pregnant woman who makes bad choices is likely to alienate her from potential sources of help. To make a good transition to being a mum - to taking responsibility for the life of another person - a woman has to feel that she's in control of her life, and has the respect of others in this important role. Giving someone a tactless telling off in a courtroom, and undermining her confidence to make good decisions instead of helping to develop this confidence, can only have the opposite effect.