Dr. Phil details fetal development while blasting drug-addicted mom – a year after denying when life begins

A pregnant 18-year-old mother recently appeared on the Dr. Phil show, admitting to using drugs during her pregnancy. The controversial talk show host responded by lambasting the woman, repeatedly tell her that she had injured her very real child.

In an episode recently shared on the host’s YouTube channel, mom Sara was confronted by Dr. Phil for using crack and heroin while pregnant, harshly criticizing her for excusing her drug use by claiming it was early in her pregnancy. In response, Dr. Phil spouted facts about early fetal development; this seemed out of character for him, as just last year he was accused of “suppressing” the pro-life message and denying the science of life in the womb on an episode which resulted in so much negative feedback that Dr. Phil’s team hid the episode from the show’s YouTube page.

“Let me give you a flash,” he told Sara. “When you use those drugs in the first trimester of your pregnancy, brain, spine, and central nervous system are at risk.”

As Sara tearfully said she “felt like a scumbag,” Dr. Phil interjected, “Thank you for abusing this child. OK? That’s abuse.”

He continued to attack Sara throughout the segment. “In the first trimester of your pregnancy, you used these drugs, and that can cause your baby’s brain to be malformed, your baby’s spine to be malformed — in the first trimester,” he said, ignoring Sara repeatedly saying that she messed up as she cried.

“Let me tell you, I wouldn’t be talking to you, except I’m here to protect this child,” he continued. “Frankly, if you and your sister want to go out and get high, frankly, I’ve got a 10,000-letter stack on my desk. I wouldn’t be talking to you.” As she continued to cry and insist that drug use is not what she wants, Dr. Phil asked, “So why are you doing it?”

Despite Dr. Phil’s position in the public persona as an expert on damaged, at-risk people, drug addiction is incredibly difficult from which to break free. Far from being merely a sign of weakness or poor character, as Dr. Phil suggested in this episode, addiction can be a lifelong struggle. Drug use changes the way the brain functions, so a person may genuinely have the will to quit… but may be physically unable to do so without significant medical interventions. Heroin in particular is known to be an especially addictive drug, and quitting cold turkey is actually not recommended, as it can cause serious physical harm. Battling heroin addiction requires help from medical professionals, not public shame and ridicule.

Furthermore, the standard of care for pregnant women addicted to opioids — like heroin — is not so cut and dried. According to the CDC, “quickly stopping opioids during pregnancy is not recommended, as it can have serious consequences, including preterm labor, fetal distress, or miscarriage. Current clinical recommendations for pregnant people with OUD include medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD), rather than supervised withdrawal, due to a higher likelihood of better outcomes and a reduced risk of relapse.”


Dr. Phil’s newfound concern over preborn children is especially surprising, considering how fiercely he has previously fought to defend the supposed “right” to kill them. In October 2022, Live Action founder and president Lila Rose appeared on a Dr. Phil episode, discussing abortion in the United States after the fall of Roe v. Wade. During the episode, Rose was repeatedly attacked and talked over by virtually everyone on the show, with Dr. Phil himself weighing in to disagree that life begins at fertilization.

“The scientific community does not have a consensus about when human life begins,” he claimed at the time, adding that the “body of scientific literature” points to different moments in development at which different scientists believe life officially begins — a drastic difference from the way the host accurately listed off first trimester human fetal development in his recent episode.

Despite how fiercely Dr. Phil and his pro-abortion allies attacked Rose, the tide was against them. The backlash was so fierce that producers unlisted the episode from YouTube — meaning that video was no longer publicly viewable when visiting the Dr. Phil Show’s YouTube page, nor will it show up in search results. It can only be seen and shared by people who already have the link, which is here.

The full discussion was replaced by a shorter clip, which was flooded with comments in support of Rose. Louisiana State Senator Katrina Jackson and Right to Life League’s VP of Legal Affairs, Susan Swift, were also guests on the episode, and Swift affirmed how poorly Rose was treated. “The debate itself was very one-sided,” she said in a press release. “During the taping, pro-life people hardly got a chance to speak. Ringers in the audience were wearing wireless microphones and encouraged to add to the emotional drama. And Dr. Phil actively suppressed the pro-life side.”


Finally, Dr. Phil’s treatment of drug-addicted mom Sara was problematic for one more reason: such shaming and humiliation could be viewed as coercive toward a pregnant woman in her situation. Dr. Phil repeatedly told Sara that she had damaged her baby, that she was a child abuser, and that she wasn’t trying hard enough to quit using drugs. For a pregnant woman already battling drug addiction, this kind of rhetoric could potentially steer her toward the false idea that maybe it is best to end her child’s life before birth.

Though Dr. Phil didn’t seem concerned about offering actual solutions to Sara, there is treatment available for women in her situation. It is true that opioid use is dangerous for both the mother and her preborn child… but doctors have been working with women like Sara for decades. Methadone, which came into use in the 1970s, became considered the standard of care in 1998, though newer research also indicates that buprenorphine is another good option. This treatment is associated with stabilized fetal levels of opioids, reduction of repeated prenatal withdrawal, improved outcomes for the baby, shorter treatment times needed after birth, lower levels of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), higher gestational height and weight, and more.

There are real, tangible options available for women like Sara, and Dr. Phil would do well to lead these women to the help and support both they and their preborn children need.

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