The Cases Of Two Dangerous Moms

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - October 26, 2005
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Two mothers, two different ways to endanger a child, two very different outcomes.

Last Wednesday the local news was all abut these two mothers. One, Sonia Tabladillo, left her two little boys in the mini-van and the keys in the ignition as she ran into the bank to do a little errand. When she came out the van and the boys were gone. A half hour later both boys were found safe and the suspect arrested. End of story.

The other, Tayshea Aiwohi, smoked crystal meth during her pregnancy. She smoked it in the final days before delivering her baby. Little Treyson died 2 days after birth. Definitely not the end of the story.

Tabladillo was able to go home with her sons. She is probably shaken to the core and determined never to make the same mistake again. She has become yet another reminder to parents everywhere that sacrificing the safety of children in the name of convenience is a risk one should never, ever take. She was lucky enough to have a second chance. And she will not face prosecution for putting her kids’ lives at risk.

Aiwohi, too, wants a second chance. She also has had a chance to reflect on her actions and to swear never again to put her children at risk. But she must wait for the Hawaii Supreme Court to decide her fate. Is she guilty of manslaughter? Even in the grip of her awful addiction she must have known the drugs would harm her baby. But should we put her away for something she did while pregnant?

The only thing these two cases have in common is that both women put their children at risk. But I have to tell you; in our newsroom the reactions from many people were strikingly similar. Rage and disbelief that yet another parent would leave a child in a car. Anger that a woman would take drugs during her pregnancy and kill her newborn.

I’m setting aside the issues of whether prosecutors should go after a woman for what she did during a pregnancy, or whether the fetus is a fully formed person with legal rights. That will be the tough call for our justices to hash out.

But the outrage I heard was directed equally at both women. Tabladillo, they said, ought to pay for her negligence. What if the boys had been injured, or killed? There oughtta be a law.

And Aiwohi, they said, should pay for what she did to her child. Addiction be dammed. Treyson died.

There were a few other voices, not as loud, but there in the background nonetheless. One woman argued for Aiwohi. Where should the law draw the line? Should we prosecute pregnant women for drinking wine or going skydiving? What about treating her addiction rather than punishing her for it?

One tiny voice stood up for Tabladillo. It was just a mistake. It’s a pain to wake up the kids and drag them in for a quick errand. She didn’t know what would happen. How could anyone anticipate that some bad person would take off with the car?

If nothing else, these women should make you think. Which one of these women should be punished? Aiwohi, because her son died, but not Tabladillo, because her children lived? Aiwohi, because she should have known better despite her addiction and made the wrong choice? Tabladillo should have known better, too. What about her choice?

Or should we have compassion for one or for both? They are only human, after all, just like the rest of us. And we all make mistakes.

Wherever you stand, I do think we need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions.

How far should we be willing to go to protect children - or fetuses?

How do we decide who gets punished and who doesn’t?

Why are we outraged when an addicted woman smokes ice during pregnancy, yet shrug our shoulders and roll our eyes when a mother or father makes an innocent child a target in an unlocked car?

Think about it.

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