Am I my roommate’s fetus’s keeper?

I really disagree with Dear Prudence’s advice in today’s column (first letter), in which she advises a woman who is rooming with a pregnant smoker to confront the woman about her habit. But what do you think? Am I being too libertarian and hands-off? Personally, I think it’s none of the roommate’s business and she ought to butt out. How would you answer this question?

I share an apartment with four other women. We found one another on Craigslist and maintain a cordial environment within our common spaces but don’t interact socially. One of my roommates is four and half months pregnant but still smokes about half a pack of cigarettes a day. This girl isn’t even 20 years old and has no college education. I don’t believe the pregnancy was planned or is particularly wanted. One of the factors that’s made living with so many other women in a small apartment successful is respecting one another’s privacy. But do I have an obligation to say something to her? Is it possible she’s not aware that her behavior is harmful to her baby? Could I anonymously slip some information under her door? I hesitate to get into someone else’s business, but I worry for her unborn child. Should I leave this one alone?

I’m particularly amazed that Prudence says, not merely that the roommate can say something, but that she “must speak up.” (Italics mine.) What do you all think? I believe in the whole “it takes a village” concept, yet at the same time, I think a pregnant woman’s autonomy ought to be respected by strangers, even the woman does have the temerity to be young and uneducated. Where do we draw the line?

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