How Some Alabama Hospitals Quietly Drug Test New Mothers — Without Their Consent

In Alabama, a positive drug test can have dire repercussions for pregnant women and new mothers. Their newborns can be taken from them. They can lose custody of their other children. They can face lengthy sentences in the most notorious women’s prison in the United States and thousands of dollars in fees and fines.

Yet the hospitals that administer those drug tests — and turn the results over to authorities — are exceedingly reluctant to disclose their policies to the public…

ProPublica and began examining hospital drug-testing policies as part of an investigation into Alabama’s chemical endangerment law, the country’s toughest law targeting drug use in pregnancy. Since 2006, the law has been used to charge nearly 500 women with endangering their unborn children. In many cases, law enforcement officials cited hospital-administered drug tests as probable cause for arrest…

Under Alabama law, drug abuse in pregnancy is considered a form of child abuse, and medical providers are “mandatory reporters,” meaning they are required to report positive test results to child welfare authorities, who then must report them to law enforcement. At least 15 other states also treat prenatal drug use as child abuse, but only three — Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee — explicitly allow mothers to be criminally prosecuted.

The potential penalties under Alabama law are especially stiff: one to 10 years in prison if a baby is exposed but suffers no ill effects; 10 to 20 years if a baby shows signs of exposure or harm; and 10 to 99 years if a baby dies…

Hospitals that take this approach appear to include Decatur Morgan in Morgan County, which has the largest number of chemical endangerment arrests in the state — including a high percentage of first-time offenders who test positive for marijuana only. Decatur Morgan officials declined numerous requests for comment…

In many parts of the country, the war on drugs has a new front: the maternity ward. But policies meant to protect babies can have unintended, and sometimes dire, consequences for women’s constitutional and reproductive rights. Have you or someone you know been drug tested during pregnancy or childbirth? Did you give your consent? ProPublica would like to hear from you…

If you don't comment, I'll just assume you agree with me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s