‘Crack Babies’ Comparison To Neonatal Drug Withdrawal Ignores Racist Rhetoric Of 1980s, Experts Argue

From the Huffington Post – Once again, images of squirming infants struggling to hold on to their first minutes of life and stories of newborns shaking from withdrawal in neonatal intensive care units have reclaimed media attention. It seems history is repeating itself as outlets from theNew York Times to Time to the Associated Press have revisited one of the few subjects that cuts to the quick of the nation’s “family values” rhetoric: babies who have been exposed to drugs in utero.

A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that thenumber U.S. babies born with signs of opiate drug withdrawal has tripled in a decade, a finding that’s in line with evidence of an upsurge in abuse of prescription drugs. These infants have been characterized as the 21st-century version of the 1980s “crack baby” epidemic, which swept the country at the height of the war on drugs. But many contend that comparison is irresponsible because it ignores the racialized and pejorative rhetoric of that era, specifically the inherent implication that the term refers to a black baby.

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