Mom Smoked Meth While Breast-Feeding Son

Aug. 17, 2005 — -- A Salem, Ore., meth-addicted mother pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that she endangered her 9-month-old son by smoking the drug while breast-feeding him.

Prosecutors say going after mothers who knowingly endanger their children by feeding them drug-tainted breast milk is another way of tackling the state's problem with methamphetamines.

The drug is such a problem that Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a law Tuesday requiring people to get a prescription to buy cold and allergy medication containing pseudoephedrine, one of the key ingredients people use to make meth.

"Currently in Oregon we believe it's an epidemic," Oregon State Police Lt. Craig Durbin said at the governor's announcement Tuesday.

Though other states have passed laws requiring pharmacies to put products containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter and to limit how much of the drug people buy, Oregon is the first state to require a prescription to buy the popular cold and allergy medication.

Salem police said they were first alerted to the problem when Jennie Thomas brought her 9-month-old son to a local hospital.

The boy was not feeling well, but several staff members at Salem Hospital also noticed that he seemed unusually agitated. They ran some tests and discovered the infant had a high concentration of meth in his system.

"I think we, as prosecutors, have a responsibility to the children in our community, to hold parents accountable for the actions against them," Marion County deputy district attorney Sarah Morris said.

Morris, who prosecuted the case, said this case may be unusual, but meth babies are not.

"We had a week where five babies were born in our community that were meth positive," she said.

Some people in Salem said they believe that parents who expose their children to drugs should be severely punished.

"I think maybe they (the mothers who are doing meth) should be fixed," said Amber Knutsen. "Unless they go through treatment, they're not going to get better."

"Well, you know the way drugs are today, somebody's got to do something and they have to start somewhere and to me, endangering a child, that's one of the worst things you can do," said Pam Westcott, who is a grandmother.

Thomas' mother said what happened to the little boy had a sobering effect on her daughter, but court records show Thomas is still struggling with the addiction.

In July, she violated probation, admitting to an officer that she was smoking meth from a pipe.

Thomas also has two other children, both of whom were removed from her care and remain in state protective custody.

Her husband is also an admitted meth user. He also pleaded guilty to child endangerment.

ABC News affiliate KATU-TV in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.