The most irresponsible part of the Senate Judiciary Committee report is the cavalier use of inflated, inaccurate numbers as a means of alarming the public.
The Biden staff asserts that over 900,000 drug-damaged babies have been born under the Bush administration. The report uses the terms "drug-exposed," "drug-damaged" and "drug addicted" interchangeably. Whether or not you think all drug-exposed infants are permanently damaged — they are not — 900,000 babies is a lot.
According to Biden's staff, the number comes from an oft-quoted report by Dr. Ira Chasnoff of the National Association for Perinatal Addiction Research. Dr. Chasnoff asserted in 1988 that 375,000 drug-exposed babies were born. Chasnoff used a survey of 36 city hospitals and then extrapolated to the rest of the country to conclude that hundreds of thousands of crack babies were born. Chasnoff himself said that his survey is only a rough estimate, and many feel his survey has been misused.
Today, the Chasnoff study is seldom cited by academic sources not only because of its poor statistics but also because of evidence that so-called "crack babies" can lead normal lives. "Findings about neurobehavioral effects in the newborn period have been inconsistent or contradictory," the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded in a Jan. 15, 1992, article about prenatal cocaine exposure. Inadequate nutrition and poor health care are bigger factors with "crack babies" than cocaine, according to the article.
The crack baby scare has led many well-meaning people to believe that these children need special schooling because they are permanently damaged. As JAMA stated, "Condemning these children with labels of permanent handicap and failure is premature and may lead us to overlook what we have long known about the remediating effects of early intervention."
"Good science is needed to make sound clinical and public policy decisions," JAMA concluded. Obviously, Senator Biden's staff is not listening.
Linda C. Mayes, Richard H. Granger, Marc H. Bornstein and Barry Zuckerman, "The Problem of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure: A Rush to Judgment" Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 15, 1992.