Outrage as hospitals test pregnant moms for drugs near low-income neighborhoods

Expecting moms in New York are being drug tested in hospitals near low income neighborhoods.  But pregnancy advocates are calling the practice racist and discriminatory.

“You cannot tell from a drug test if someone is fit to parent,” said Lynn Paltrow of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

More than a dozen pregnancy wards across the city administer a marijuana test, without the mother’s consent.  According to the Daily News, the number of tests given to pregnant women varies from hospital to hospital.  St. Barnabas Hospital in the South Bronx requires all mothers to agree to testing.  If they refuse, the babies are tested.

But Lenox Hill Hospital on the ritzy Upper East Side only tests if a mother is clearly under the influence.

If a mother fails the pot test, the results are sent to child-protection services.  In one case, a Bronx mother smoked a joint at a party during her pregnancy and failed.  The Administration for Child Services ordered her to ‘Mommy Probation’ until they agency dropped the case earlier this year.

Hospitals that do random drug testing say their first priority is the child’s health.  An argument Paltrow does not support.  She says scientists believe marijuana poses less risk to the fetus than alcohol or cigarettes.  Yet turning over results to the government can destroy a family.

“Low income families expect privacy.  Yet, they have less of a guarantee than job applicants do,” said Paltrow.

We reached out to the ACS to see how many neglect cases stem from failed pregnancy ward drug tests.  The agency did not have an accurate number.

170 comments

  • jmp

    I dont think its rasist maybe byist(sp) but not racist truthfully there are more white folks on government aid then there is african americans or hispanics…..just because you are on government aid doesnt make you a bad person either there are some of us out there that are single parents work hard but still need a little assistance because their is only one income most of the time because the other parent refuses to pay their child support….we also pay taxes too yes there are some that dont do a damn thing and use and abuse aid but thats not all of us those few make us people out to have a bad rep. Like i said before drug testing doesnt bother me but not asking permission does and it should be for everyone poor middle class and rich alike because more rich people do more drugs then the poor they have more money for it….alot not all rich people are not that great of a parent just because they can provide anything in the world doesnt mean they are a great parent most of them are not there emotionally or physically for their kids they have a nanny to raise them…..

  • equality

    the article says the test is only for marijuana, which makes no sense. Yes, test for crack, meth, heroin, cocaine, alcohol……and oxy and vicodin and valium etc…. and make it a standard test at all hospitals everywhere, for the rich women drinking champagne and taking pills on the upper east side and the women in low income areas too. Just testing in SOME hospitals, and they all just HAPPEN to service low income minorities…that is what makes it racist and prejudicial. Instead of hospitals trying to penalize women when they come in to give birth, they should have an intensive educational outreach services for pregnancy and parenting so that babies, and moms, can be healthier and thrive.

  • TSK

    If the low-income mammy-to-be is not White, then the tests are quite justified. Non-whites are such drains to ALL societies, except for a few chinks or japs or gooks or hymies or arabs or eskimoians.

  • sharon

    “You cannot tell from a drug test if someone is fit to parent,” said Lynn Paltrow of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

    Uh YOU can't. I can. Crack heads and heroin addicts make lousy mothers. I never said they don't love their product of a biological function that enables them to collect more govt aid they can then trade in for drugs, but they do make lousy mothers.

  • warsteiner

    You have to be completely ignorant to think this is racist. They should be tested if they look even alittle drugged out.Just for the simple reason that the live babies in the womb can not protect themselves. Only the minority RACIST would come up with this kind a accusation. OH YES THE WHITE DEVILS WHO ARE THE BANE OF ALL POOR MINORITIES ARE SEARCHING YOU DRUG USING BABY MAKERS OUT SO THAT THEY CAN SPEND EVEN MORE ON YOUR TIRE DRUG ADDICTED RECTUMS. The nerve you people always claim you deserve respect. Well first you need to know what it is wanting it is not enough. Second you need to be worthy of it and being racist and dumb is not a good start

  • thewarsteiner

    I feel like im in the twilight zone. How pray tell is this racist and how would the outraged be satisfied. If babies are being born addicted in one area at high rates then it is pretty likely they need to start testing. And the only people who would have a issue with this would be the people who would fail the test. If drug testing pregnant women stops one baby from being born addicted or one fetal alcohol baby then call me racist all day long.

    • jmp

      They dont test for alcohol so it wont stop fetal alcohol syndrom…..They dont test for cigarettes so there will be babies born with under developed lungs or breathing problems….So to me thats not fair that they can get away with it because its legal to do that. Thats why they should test for legal and illegal substances

      • Maybelline

        Women ARE tested for alcohol. Again, you are making conclusions without knowing the answers. Alcohol is part of a drug panel, as well as acetaminophen and aspirin, not just narcotics (prescribed/legal/illicit). Babies with FAS have very certain features that are often obvious at birth. The mother does not have to have a drop of alcohol in her system at delivery for her baby to be born affected. The mutations occur during gestation. The amount and frequency of alcohol ingestion to cause FAS is unknown. Women that smoke during pregnancy tend to have underweight babies, not necessarily premature or with lung problems. I can't speak for NY, but in TX everyone gets tested. You (people in general) don't know unless you ask what is being tested. You (people in general) can refuse, but then the doctor is under no obligation to take care of you. Then everyone is put in a bind. The woman is without a provider and must start all over again, and the doctor is torn between wanting to help and putting themselves at risk for a malpractice suit. If your drug use was discovered during your prenatal visit, then your doctor had an opportunity to help you and didn't. Trust me, nurses have a whole lot of better things to be doing than sitting on hold for 45 minutes trying to report you to CPS for a child that has yet to be delivered. Even using the online reporting system is cumbersome. However, if your drug use was discovered in the hospital setting at delivery, the time to help was long gone. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I feel you could have been better managed, and this would've all been avoided. Now that you have had your baby, what do you do for your back pain?

  • ChildrenFirst

    Uh yeah you can tell from a failed drug test if someone is a fit parent. My parents were drug addicts and I can tell you, if they are doing drugs, especially while pregnant, they are not a fit parent.

    And while my parents weren't from low income areas, the tests are not discriminatory because people who do drugs usually end up in low income areas and people from low income areas are more likely to use drugs.

  • navychick63

    I worked with the YWCA in AA county 10 years ago and we had a program to help educate low class mostly white women learn how to raise their kids. They had vans and cabs pick them up to bring them to class but most of them never came. One 5 year old had to take care her drugged addicted mother. So WHITES also have issues to and are offered help but reject itl

  • jmp

    I want to know who this maybelline chick is shes a nurse in texas…..very judgemental….very quick to judge someone she doesnt even know if she can judge someone like that she shouldnt be a nurse people like her cause women to not want to go near a hospital for fear of her type of person tearing them down. A person whom is quick to judge someone they do not know should not be a caregiver whatsoever if they have no heart and are quick to judge like her. She they type regardless of what is there to make sure she ruins your life not caring what your going through she obviously thinks all people on govt aid do not are bad people and do not deserve to know what they are being tested for because taxpayers pay for our healthcare and thinks that we do not pay taxes. She obviously has a miserble life to be judging people like that the type once again should not be a caregiver.

    • Maybelline

      Okay- you can stop now. You are the one calling me judgmental, yet you are the one throwing suppositions all over the place. You don't know whether I have a heart or not. How do I ruin your life? Did I turn you in? No. Am I the one that made the choice to do something that got my kid(s) taken away? No. Did I say one friggin thing about people on government aid that remotely alluded to them being bad people that didn't deserve to know what they were being tested for? No. I said that unless you (people in general) had an itemized bill, you have no idea what tests are being done. People on Medicaid in Texas don't get an itemized bill unless they ask for it, because they aren't the ones paying it. It doesn't matter what kind of insurance you (people in general) have, physicians are held to a standard of care that supports drug testing. Do you think doctors really care if you (people in general) drink, smoke, snort, inject, sleep around, etc? Their 6-9 month relationship with the mother does not allow them to know and care about every single person on a remotely personal level- their concern is for a healthy delivery and a healthy baby, not what you do or why you do it. When it comes down to it, the one mother that ended up with a disabled child from unforeseen circumstances would be the first to be screaming at the top of her lungs that she was discriminated against because she did not get drug tested like other mothers. The adverse outcomes of these babies is every OB/GYN's nightmare for the next 18 years, because inevitably there will always be one in the bunch that will sue, regardless of their own culpability. I'm sorry if you think I'm judgmental. In my specialty, I just call it like I see it, and if you think it means you (people in general) then your issues are not with me but with yourself.

  • jn360

    Make weed legal. Problem solved. Tell expecting moms that it is not a good idea to use weed during pregnancy, just like cigarettes and alcohol. Next.

  • Brandy

    Here's the thing: if you are not on drugs, or doing anything wrong while you are pregnant what difference does it make? I'm pregnant, and I am being careful even with what foods I eat so that I have a healthy pregnancy. I quit smoking electronic cigarettes and drinking alcohol immediately when I knew I was pregnant. I have severe morning sickness, and occasionally take a nausea pill prescribed by my doctor. Clearly, if you chose to do anything that we in the 21st century KNOW will harm the baby while you are pregnant, you are either stupid, or don't want a baby. Ridiculous that this is even being debated, and excuses are being made for people. Give me a break.

  • GroverCleveland

    “You cannot tell from a drug test if someone is fit to parent”
    Right, because crack heads have always made great moms…

  • Far reach

    Wow…I am pregnant right now, this is my third child, I have private insurance and live in a predominantly white neighborhood. I get tested at every appointment. It is part of the routine. It is important for your physician to know if you are on anything during pregnancy in order to cater to your specific health care needs. To call it racist is reaching!

  • kenburch

    The only way this could possibly be acceptable would be for ALL expectant mothers to be drug-tested(and only for hard drugs, not just pot) when they arrive at the hospital. It's not as if being born to parents with substance abuse issues is ONLY a bad thing when those parents happen to be low-income.

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