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Pregnant in Indiana? Get Ready for Forced Drug Testing

Pregnant in Indiana? Get Ready for Forced Drug Testing

Update 9/17/13 - The Attorney General’s office has responded to the report of potential mandatory drug testing of pregnant women with the following statement:

“As co-chair of the state’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, Attorney General Greg Zoeller spoke on Sept. 9 to the Commission on Mental Health and Addiction about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

The attorney general’s comments should not be interpreted to imply that he supports mandatory opioid testing of any kind for pregnant women – he does not. The task force is currently working on viable solutions to address the spike in NAS cases in Indiana and plans to put forth a series of recommendations in the next few months for the Legislature to consider.

When Zoeller addressed possible ways to combat this problem, he highlighted that physicians, who are responsible for the health of mother and child, should provide appropriate medical care for all pregnant women, including those with opioid dependency and/or addiction.”

—–

Lots of women already pee on a stick to confirm a pregnancy. Now the Indiana Attorney General wants women to pee once more — this time as a mandatory drug test.

Citing the rising costs of caring for allegedly drug addicted babies on delivery, Indiana A.G. Greg Zoeller is proposing a mandatory drug test for all pregnant women and girls. According to the A.G., testing and early treatment could save at least $30 million in hospital costs in caring for newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). “You can reduce the length of stay for the newly born baby from six weeks to two weeks, the better health of the baby as well as the costs,” A.G. Zoeller told Indiana Public Media in an interview.

“Treatment” is a vague word. For a number of states that have proposed bills to deal with drug abuse while pregnant, those who are found to be abusing drugs have seen charges under “chemical endangerment” laws that have put them behind bars. Others have faced murder charges when their babies were born prematurely.  Mississippi even went as far as to try for a new law to drug test pregnant women arrested in related drug crimes, with the intent to charge her with child abuse if she tested positive.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women has spent years tracking the growing number of states charging pregnant women for a variety of crimes that stem in essence from being pregnant and seen as endangering a fetus, with much stiffer penalties than those that a non-pregnant drug user would receive.

Targeting of pregnant women for the crime of not being a good enough pregnant person is bad in itself, but what A.G. Zoeller is proposing goes even further. By declaring that all pregnant patients should be tested for drugs, he has given up even the shred of pretense for probable cause that the other examples use to justify the testing. In this case, just being pregnant is enough of a reason to force a person to undergo a screening.

Would a pregnant woman in Indiana who tests positive be likely to get assistance in getting off drugs, or simply find herself in a jail cell instead? Indiana doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to prosecuting pregnant women. Bei Bei Shuai spent over a year in jail without bail, charged with murder over the death of her premature baby, who died a week after Shuai was treated for ingesting rat poison in a suicide attempt. Just this August, Shuai was finally allowed to plea down to criminal recklessness, with time already served.

Women’s rights and mental health advocates worried the prosecution of Shuai would cause other pregnant people to refuse to seek help when they were suicidal, putting both them and their unborn child at risk. If a mandatory drug test becomes law, fear of prosecution could do the same to drive them away from prenatal care, harming mother and child far more than the alleged effects of NAS would.

When a number of states proposed mandatory drug tests in order to get state funding via programs like welfare or unemployment, the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in to litigate, calling it illegal search and a violation of the 4th amendment. It’s difficult to see how A.G. Zoeller’s idea to test every pregnant woman for drugs could be seen as any more constitutional. It certainly wouldn’t do anything to benefit the Indiana’s mothers-to-be, and could only cause more harm to them and their families.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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156 comments

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1:18AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

interesting

12:41PM PDT on Sep 23, 2013

Frances D.
“I think that drug testing durning pregnancy in very important...”

You think it should be mandatory? How do you feel about mandatory healthcare coverage?

Kyle N
“What is wrong with drug testing?? I think drug testing is a good thing whether looking for a job, though most jobs require a test anyways,”

How do you feel about gun 'all' owners being drug tested. how about we drug test all politicians, especially the ones making all the laws for women's reproduction issues. Btw, I’ve never been drug tested for any of those things you mentioned.

7:27AM PDT on Sep 21, 2013

Del R. Isn't it obvious who to blame? Without access to the drugs, they don't get into the body. Without a prescription you don't get the drugs. Just recently there were a couple of Doctors, a married couple, who would over prescribe drugs, pain killers, on a regular basis. Medical records can easily show this.

Kyle N. False Positives ruin lives. Get a clue.

11:43PM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

What is wrong with drug testing?? I think drug testing is a good thing whether looking for a job, though most jobs require a test anyways, getting a Drivers license, to get welfare or even when found to be pregnant. Many iIlegal drugs cause disorders, other problems later on to the baby.

6:34PM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

noted

4:41PM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

Terry T.. While the articl don't address the street variety, I hope you realize it isn't the OB/GYN Docs. and Mid wives that are prescribing the problem. Who does one blame? The pharmacists for providing the meds? The Docs. for prescribing them? .. or the people that are in charge of carrying the new life being created and being introduced into this world. As the taxpayers and states do have a vested interest it only makes sense to protect their interests. If people stood on their own two feet and paid their own way all the time this would never become an issue!!! That state is addressing an expense they are trying to rein in and help protect the new born in the process.. Why would anyone be against having a healthier child and a better contributor to society rather than the inverse.

1:33PM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

The woman is only a VEHICLE....right?....a WOMB, in which the State has such a compelling interest that it can ENFORCE drug testing! And what's next?

6:32AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

i agree with frances d. testing for the purpose of getting proper health care makes sense. especially when other members of the family get involved and want to sue for medical malpractice when something goes wrong. the criminal aspect needs work because you can charge someone for knowingly having unprotected sex if they are HIV positive, so can you charge someone for using illegal, unprescribed drugs when they know they are pregnant?

4:46AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

ty

4:27AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

Frances D.
Sorry, being Pregnant does not create a suspect class of individuals requiring monitoring for Criminal Activity. Between that and the fact/reality of FALSE POSITIVES women are basically being treated as Criminals without just cause.

How about doing something LEGITIMATE and using those Almighty Records to directly check which physicians are prescribing those Meds, whom is getting them, and whether or not there should be a concern, odds are the Males aren't going to be getting pregnant, quite a number of the Females will be past child bearing years, leaving a very small proportion to watch.

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