Target: Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller
Goal: Stop proposal for mandatory drug test for pregnant women and girls
As if the slew of attacks on women’s reproductive rights has been insufficient, Indiana Attorney General Zoeller recently suggested that the state implement a mandatory drug screening for pregnant women and girls, claiming that caring for allegedly drug-addicted babies on delivery has become increasingly expensive. In a statement to Indiana Public Media, he asserted that the treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), exposure in the womb to addictive drugs, cost Indiana hospitals approximately $30 million in 2011, saying ‘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.’ However, this is a more complex issue than hospital costs; requiring drug tests could subject pregnant women to criminal charges as well as violating their constitutional rights. A state-mandated drug test required solely on the condition of pregnancy follows the recent trend of depriving women of rights, generally criminalizing pregnancy, and disproportionately targeting women of color.
Pregnant women in many states have been subjected to similar laws , facing charges of child abuse, ‘chemical endangerment,’ and even murder in some cases of premature birth, ‘turning pregnant women into a different class of person and removing them of their rights,’ as Lynn Paltrow of the campaign National Advocates for Pregnant Women put it to The Guardian. Due to patent lack of probable cause, the proposed mandatory testing would represent an unequivocal violation of the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections. Attorney General Zoeller is granting more value to hospital expenditures than to the lives of the unborn and the women who carry them. There has rarely been any evidence of a mother’s actions during pregnancy causing any harm – notwithstanding accounts of false accusations of drug abuse – and the proposed mandate likely would drive many mothers away from hospitals, preventing them from getting necessary and proper health care and rehabilitation opportunities.
By signing this petition, you are encouraging Attorney General Zoeller to think through the suggestion he has made. Instead of reducing instances of NAS and saving hospitals money, he is creating more work for the state in the long term by refusing to provide the care needed by pregnant women. Please urge him to withdraw his suggestion, and to acknowledge that this proposed mandatory drug test would have been an unconstitutional search of pregnant women based on their condition, besides discriminating disproportionately against women of color.
Dear Attorney General Greg Zoeller,
I am very disappointed by your recent suggestion that the Indiana legislature mandate drug testing for pregnant women, based on hospital expenditures for treatment of NAS. This proposed measure represents a direct violation of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, with no probable cause other than the condition of pregnancy. Rather than encouraging women to pursue healthier pregnancies, you by this proposal are encouraging pregnant women to avoid seeking the treatment they need, based on fears of facing charges rather than getting medical help at a hospital. In the long term, your proposal would create more costly work for hospitals, as the women and their future children will almost definitely have problems down the road resulting from a lack of proper treatment during pregnancy.
I urge you to reconsider and withdraw your proposal, acknowledging that requiring pregnant women to undergo drug screening as a condition of their pregnancy is discriminatory and unconstitutional, and would disproportionately affect women of color. I encourage you to explore different options for preventing NAS, rather than criminalizing pregnancy, such as expanding health care for pregnant women to participate in drug rehabilitation programs.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Mujeres ante el Congreso via Flickr