Women who put their unborn babies at risk by drinking to excess during pregnancy should be prosecuted, say activists.
Campaigners hoping to make it a crime to drink excessively during pregnancy may be a step closer with a landmark case on the issue due to be heard by the Court of Appeal.
If heard, the legal test case will argue that a six-year-old girl who suffered brain damage due to alcohol exposure in the womb is the victim of a crime because her mother was warned of the risks of her drinking.
Figures from the Department of Health show in total around one in 100 babies are now born with alcohol-related disorders.
In the past three years there has been a 50% rise in Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), with 313 babies found to be damaged from being exposed to alcohol in the womb in 2012/13.
Experts believe the numbers could in fact be much higher, with thousands more foetuses damaged.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Raja Mukherjee warned mother-to-be do not have to binge-drink to be at risk.
“If you avoid it that’s the safest route,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean that people who’ve drunk a little bit have harmed their child, most people won’t have done, but if you want to guarantee safety and you want to guarantee no risk then no alcohol is the best way forward.”
Glenn, 15, was born with FAS after his birth mother drank excessively during pregnancy.
He has the mental age of a four-year-old, as well as physical disabilities which affect his movement and vision. He has to wear nappies and is fed through a tube.
His adoptive mother Sue Brett thinks more needs to be done to educate women.
She said: “It should be to abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy. You can’t make it a criminal offence if you are still legally saying this is a safe amount to drink or you can drink.
“It needs to be clear from the start that you can’t drink.”
Plans are already under way to make it illegal to smoke when children are in the car after MPs backed a ban raising the question if mothers who deliberately harm their unborn baby by drinking should also be prosecuted.
Susan Fleisher is the founder of NOFAS-UK, a charity which promotes awareness about the impact of alcohol during pregnancy.
She agrees more needs to be done to cut the number of children being affected, but does not think prosecution is the answer.
“Women can’t be prosecuted for something they don’t know about, and, to be fair, women who are alcoholics, who have an issue with drinking, should be given support and should be given information so they know there’s a chance they could harm another life.”
Source: Sky News