Kathleen Parker
First they came for the workplace, then for people’s homes and cars, and then the great outdoors.

Now the anti-tobacco jihadists, having helped ban smoking in most public and many private places, have turned their attention to the most private space of all — the womb.

That very personal place where humans incubate could be the next battlefield between smokers and those who have never uttered the words: “It’s none of my beeswax.”

This latest brainstorm comes from Arkansas, where Rep. Bob Mathis successfully shepherded legislation making it unlawful to smoke in cars in which small children are passengers.

Apparently not satisfied with saving the recently born, Mathis wondered whether it would be constitutional to prohibit mothers from smoking while pregnant. Studies show, after all, that fetuses are at risk for low birth weight if their mothers smoke while pregnant.

No, wait, this just in: A new study in Australia shows that women who smoke while pregnant may cause their children to become obese. In a University of Queensland study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that smoking mothers’ children were 30 percent more likely to be overweight.

Underweight, overweight, oh-whatever. Both are bad, both involve tobacco, and that’s enough for John Banzhaf, the heavyweight George Washington University law professor who for years has led the anti-smoking brigade.

More recently, he’s best known for leading the charge against fast-food restaurants that serve fat-laden foods to unsuspecting, um, fat people — otherwise known as people who eat too much and wouldn’t read a nutritional label if it had a cherry on top.

Banzhaf likes to sue people, in other words, and he’s been enormously successful. Which is to say, pregnant smokers, beware.

Already Banzhaf is setting his sights on fetal rights related to their smoking mums. While it is legally defensible to abort a fetus up until moments before birth, it is apparently inconceivable that a woman would expose her unborn child to the harmful effects of smoking.

While you’re struggling to wrap your mind around that nonsensical nugget, Banzhaf is already issuing press releases. In a recent one from the organization he heads, Action on Smoking and Health, Banzhaf predicts that prohibiting smoking by pregnant women would pass constitutional muster.

“Since court after court has held that smoking is not a fundamental right like voting, and that smokers are not a protected class like African-Americans or women, the government has wide leeway in fashioning a remedy for whatever it concludes is a problem requiring corrective action.”


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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