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My local paper has been updating me on a story that disturbs me deeply. It’s about a young woman who is being prosecuted for murder. Her infant son died because his mother was an addict – her breast milk was laced with meth.

The latest article, a couple of days ago, informed us that Maggie Wortman accepted a manslaughter charge and faces 11 years in prison. If she had not accepted this, she would face a new murder charge that could mean a lifetime of incarceration.

Hmm, I wonder how much this damaged woman will learn about overcoming addictions while locked up with hardened criminals and fellow addicts? Will she come out rehabilitated? Or will she emerge from prison fully equipped to find more and better drugs, to cover her tracks?

I don’t care how messed up on drugs she is. Knowing that her baby died through her own fault has got to be the worst punishment she will ever suffer. I can’t even imagine how she must have felt waking up to see that still, cold body.

I have to wonder. Can we just blame this completely on the mother?

Don’t get me wrong, my tears are flowing for that poor baby. And for all the innocent babies and children that are unlucky enough to be born to parents who are unready or incapable of caring for them. Many of them make it through alive – and some of them go on to live lives of ignorance and addiction just as this poor young mother did.

What could have saved this baby’s life? Our justice system says that this mother should have known better, should have had the guts to overcome her addiction, or at least the smarts to feed him formula instead of her own breast milk.

And of course she should have known better. But she didn’t. Drug addiction addled her brain to the point that all she could probably think of was her next high.

This woman was sick. She needed help. But here in this great country less and less assistance is available for poor and disenfranchised drug addicts. The mentally ill are tossed out of hospitals because they lack insurance. Every week brings news of more safety net programs being cut or eliminated – including counseling and resources for drug addiction and mental illness.

The truth is – we just don’t care about these people. Unless they screw up. Maggie Wortman screwed up big time. She has to live with that for the rest of her life. I have no idea what circumstances brought her to that terrible morning in November, but somehow I don’t think prison time is going to heal that horrible wound.

Nor will it bring back that poor baby.

We don’t care much about all those scared children living with drug addicted parents either – until one of them dies. (And when I say “we” I mean the people who make and vote on budgets and laws. But the rest of us are complicit too – because we accept this.)

This is just one heart-wrenching story. It makes me so sad, but also so very angry. Why is the mother always at fault?  The virulent comments on the online newspaper article just turned my stomach.

What do you think? Am I totally off here? Is Maggie an evil woman that should pay for her sins with years in prison?

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