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.