Indiana Attorney General suggests requiring drug-testing for pregnant women

Citing the cost of treating infants exposed to addictive drugs, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the state legislature to require the drug-testing of pregnant women:

It is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, newborns exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs before they are born.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says treating NAS at Indiana hospitals cost an estimated $30 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and he says that’s with limited tracking because hospitals are not required to report the condition.

Zoeller says one solution is requiring pregnant women take drug tests to identify the problem and start treatment before birth.

“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,” he say.s [sic]

This may sound reasonable at the surface, but the reality is that systemically drug-testing pregnant women rarely leads to effective treatment, and much more often leads to the criminalization of pregnant women–particularly women of color. The moral panic around “crack babies” and the racialized narrative it created around drug-addicted pregnant women is a perfect example of how stories of addiction and pregnancy are shaped. In fact, as we’ve covered before, a recent report by National Advocates for Pregnant Women details the trend of criminalizing pregnant women, its disproportionate impact on immigrant women and women of color, and the ways that anti-choice measures like fetal personhood initiatives are being used to criminalize pregnancy. 

Indiana in particular has a pretty poor record when it comes to these issues: they were the first state to de-fund Planned Parenthood, and Indiana is where Bei Bei Shuai was charged with murder for attempting suicide while pregnant (thankfully her charges were dropped, but only after years of fighting them).

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

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