The commentariat over at MamaPundit are outraged at a law that requires drug tests and (if applicable) intervention in cases of:

(1) No prenatal care;
(2) Late prenatal care after twenty-four (24) weeks gestation;
(3) Incomplete prenatal care;
(4) Abruptio placentae;
(5) Intrauterine fetal death;
(6) Preterm labor of no obvious cause;
(7) Intrauterine growth retardation of no obvious cause;
(8) Previously known alcohol or drug abuse; or
(9) Unexplained congenital anomalies.

In the minds of the commenters, this law was obviously written by men with little or no understanding of pregnancy. Or by pro-lifers looking at a back door towards obtaining control over a pregnant woman’s body.

There are things to object to in this law. I for one and unenthusiastic about how the vague language of the law could be interpreted so that a doctor is liable if the woman does not seek help. And the question of how the state should intervene in the cases of drug use on the part of mothers during pregnancy is pretty rocky terrain filled with potential disagreement even among people who usually agree.

The odd thing about the post and the comments is that they focus at least in large part on the criteria used. This is odd to me because if this law was drafted by a bunch of men without a clue as to how pregnancy works, they obviously consulted doctors. It reads almost line-for-line what Dr. Wife describes as indicators of drug use. And if a woman has the above, chances are that she’s already being tested. And if a test comes up positive, there is already a mechanism in place to inform the authorities. The whole bit about meetings and attendance checks is new, but by and large on the doctor’s end it’s codifying what is already done.

Further, if a doctor has a patient that has the above indications of having taken drugs and does not run any tests because the mother lies and says that she does not do drugs, the doctor is liable for malpractice if something goes wrong. The notion that “Oh, well the patient assured me that she did not do drugs” isn’t going to cut it. I personally would not bet much money that the lawsuit of a mother that did drugs suing the doctor for something going wrong that can be traced back too the drugs would get very far, but it doesn’t have to get very far for the doctor to be professionally negatively impacted.

The concern of MamaPundit and her allies is that they’re targeting women that don’t seek prenatal care because the medical establishment wants to gain more control over the process and/or because they want the money that they get with prenatal visits. Sure, sometimes there are women that for one reason or another did not seek prenatal care, but the most frequent reason that a woman wouldn’t seek any is if she has antagonistic attitudes towards the medical establishment or she doesn’t want to be tested because she knows it will come up positive and social services will be informed.

In the case of the former, it’s unlikely that the law is going to apply to the woman anyway because women that don’t trust the medical establishment for prenatal care don’t suddenly trust them when it comes to delivery. In the case where a woman wants to go it on her own but changes her mind when problems occur, chances are she’s going to get a full work-up anyway and that’s going to include the drug test.

The in the case of the latter, well that’s the case that it turns out frequently enough to be to make a drug test worthwhile. I have heard this story over and over again. A woman knows if she goes to get prenatal care that she will be tested and then social services is likely going to get involved. Presumably, she puts off prenatal care in hopes that she can get it out of her system prior to delivered. All too frequently, that never happens and so the woman has put the fetus’s health unnecessarily at risk in two ways.

But what about cases that fall between the cracks of the above? Do they happen? I’m sure that they do. But the worst-case result is a test that comes up negative. I’m not entirely sure what the downside is here except for hurt feelings. The further stigmatization of having a miscarriage or having an unconventional approach to childbirth.

That’s hardly the goal, though. Doctors need to know these things in order to know what risks to keep an eye out for. Drugs and alcohol during pregnancy are known to increase risks. Doctors need to know what these risks are. They can be sued for being insufficiently thorough. Then, once the baby is born, it’s no longer a part of her and it gets health care independent of her and there is, of course, the question of whether or not the baby should remain in her custody..

Interestingly, according to Clancy, few women object to getting drug tests and almost none consider it remotely the imposition that MP’s commenters do. I was a little surprised by this, to be honest. Mothers that come up negative aren’t offended and mothers that come up positive and don’t want to fess up spend more time trying to explain why there might be false positives than arguing that nobody has a right to ask for a sample.


Category: Hospital, Statehouse

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

6 Responses to Drug Tests & Prenatal Care

  1. Webmaster says:

    Disclaimer: I am a male.

    That being said, when I looked at the commentary at MamaPundit, my first reaction was a deep sigh and profound disgust at people who were seeing something and overreacting about it.

    Then I read further, and I think I found what they were really on about (posted by mussybw):

    Nothing surprising here, my oh my we’re having a regular Vaginapalooza in Nashville this season aren’t we? As for this piece of junk legislation, it’s just the latest attempt to declare a fetus a person, which is the Pro-Life agenda now. Think about it, if they can obtain personhood for the fetus prior to birth, with protections like this, then they’ve finally turned abortion into actual chargable murder and thus outlawed it thru a backdoor. And where, you ask, are they trying to take us back to? Oh, I think Muslim countries and sharia law have quite a few parallels with the anti-woman legislation that is becoming the rule and no longer the purview of a few wild-eyed bible-thumping radicals both in our state and many others. Also, please note that there is no attachment to this legislation that will cover the costs of pre-natal care for poor women. Because we don’t care enough to provide the ability to do what should be done. As another blogger here in Knox is very apt to say “that woman made her birth control decision when she spread her legs”. Thus if she’s too poor to have a baby then she better not have sex. That, ladies and gentlemen, is compassionate conservative theology at it’s best.

    Sigh.

    I don’t think I want to comment any more. The “debate” is obviously too far apart to have a sensible conversation, or even agree on a starting point at which said conversation could occur.

  2. trumwill says:

    The concern that this is a backdoor attempt at declaring a fetus a person is not entirely illegitimate. Unfortunately, the perception is that these women obviously don’t pursue prenatal care because they can’t afford to when it’s more frequently the case that they are worried about the drug test. Money probably is a reason that some women get less pre-natal care, but if she is getting none, there is likely something else at work. If it were the case that women that couldn’t afford prenatal care on their own weren’t getting any prenatal care at all, then the last five years or so of my wife’s career, serving people that can’t afford it, must have been a big giant drug trip.

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    She has a link to Feministing in her blogroll, which explains the overreaction. It’s an article of faith among feminists of that ilk that everything men do is intended to further cement our dominance over women.

    The concern that this is a backdoor attempt at declaring a fetus a person is not entirely illegitimate.

    I support the right to abortion under any circumstances, no questions asked, precisely because I don’t think a fetus is a person. But I don’t have a problem with this legislation (in principle, anyway, though I’d have to think through the unintended consequences). To damage a fetus and then give birth to it isn’t a crime against a fetus; it’s a crime against the person that that fetus will eventually become, and who will have to live the rest of his life with the resulting congenital defects.

  4. trumwill says:

    Various corrections and clarifications from Clancy:

    1. There are many, many reasons a woman would not seek any prenatal care and I overestimated how much the drug trail might factor in. That being said, it would still be poor medicine not to look into it.

    2. By-and-large, women that see Clancy don’t actually pay for visits for prenatal care individually, so that shouldn’t be an issue. The pregnancy is handled as a lump sum at the end of a pregnancy.

    3. When I say “the above are indicators” my language is too strong. Drug use can cause these things to happen, but of course they happen on their own. I knew that when I wrote that, but it was not reflected in my language.

    4. From time to time, I’ve have startlingly bad grammarization.

  5. Webmaster says:

    I find it to be interesting that the entry is now “comments closed” and not one comment disagrees with the groupthink.

    I smell enforced groupthink syndrome.

  6. trumwill says:

    The comments probably close after X-days. A lot of blogs do that. The comment sections on the post before and after are also closed.

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