During the past decade, media and medical forces have combined to create an alarming view of pregnant mothers who use illicit drugs. The result has been increased state control of these women and their infants. This in-depth study is the first in Canada to look at how mothers who use illicit drugs regard the laws, medical practices, and social services that intervene in their lives. Focusing on practices in western Canada, Susan C. Boyd argues that licit and illicit drug categories are artificial and dangerous and that the evidence for neonatal syndrome (NAS) is suspect and ideologically driven. She shows that women of colour and poor women are treated much more harshly by authorities, that current regulations erode women's civil liberties, and that social control is the aim of drug policy and law. The study highlights mothers' views of the NAS program at Sunny Hill Hospital for Children in Vancouver. Writing from a critical feminist perspective, Boyd exposes some surprising social fictions - those that separate 'good' and 'bad' drugs, as they do 'good' and 'bad' mothers.
Susan C. Boyd is a professor in the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria.