Two women are suing Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown, New York for giving them non-consensual drug tests and then reporting their false-positive results to Child Protective Services (CPS).
The women were prevented from breastfeeding their babies for days and their homes were searched by CPS while they were in the hospital. The babies tested negative. Both women had consumed products containing poppy seeds shortly before going to the hospital.
The hospital was using urine screening tests that are sensitive to poppy seeds. Additionally, the hospital used opiate testing thresholds far lower than the levels the federal government uses for workplace testing. The federal government raised its threshold more than 20 years ago because of false positives. The women asked to be retested, but the hospitals waited two to three days before doing so leading to incredible stress on these women and their newborns. And these two women are not the only victims of hospitals using outdated tests or standards. A quick Google search turns up many similar cases.
As we enter a political period where the policing of women’s behavior and reproductive activity is heightened, more and more women will face questions about their behavior in the interest of “the children”. And you can bet that those most likely to get caught in this web will be those who have the least resources. When women are afraid to access healthcare because they are afraid of being accused of doing something wrong, we end up with an even higher maternal mortality rate.
A recent paper in the Maternal and Child Health Journal discusses the issue in depth concluding that:
“This double marginalization of pregnant patients limits their autonomy and unduly exposes them to the criminal-legal system. Given disparities in prenatal drug screening, Black pregnant patients are at greater risk of such double-jeopardy.”
Given that the United States is already one of the worst developed countries for maternal mortality, the last thing we need to be doing is discouraging pregnant people from accessing health care.
Anna Lynch is a “writer, educator, and champion for all things women.”