Indiana's Republican Attorney General proposed a law that would require pregnant welfare recipients' benefits to be contingent on passing a series of drug tests; if they can't pass, they can't buy food. Great idea guys — what economically disenfranchised pregnant drug addicts need is some good old fashioned punishment. That'll fix 'em right up!
AG Greg Zoeller justifies his whackadoodle proposal by citing the expense the state shoulders in caring for babies of drug-addicted welfare recipients. From CBS,
Zoeller said Indiana hospitals spent about $30 million in 2011 to treat neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of problems that can happen when a newborn is exposed to illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother's womb.
Symptoms vary depending on which drug the mother abused, and range from blotchy skin coloring to diarrhea to excessive or high pitched crying. Babies can have hyperactive reflexes, fever, excessive sucking, increased muscle tone, irritability, poor feeding and rapid breathing. They may also experience seizures, sleep problems, slow weight gain, stuffy noses, sneezing, sweating, tremors or vomiting.
A pretty idea, right? Fewer babies suffering is good, right?
Except drug testing pregnant women doesn't help babies; it punishes poor women. Drug addicts who fear repercussions are less likely to seek prenatal care than those who aren't using drugs, which could result in the worse postbirth health complications for infants. Zoeller's proposal is purely punitive, an expression of disdain for the poor wrapped in an artifice of Concern For The Children.
Even though the Supreme Court ruled over a decade ago that drug testing pregnant women without their consent was a violation of their privacy, states continue to push for laws that would allow lawmakers (mostly men, tbh) to revoke benefits or parental rights from mothers who used drugs while pregnant (in Alabama, mothers who test positive for drug use can be charged with a crime called "chemical endangerment"). Other recipients of taxpayer funds — student loan recipients, Medicare recipients, and, uh, state Attorneys General — are not tested for drugs as a barometer of their worthiness. Shouldn't have listened to that snake, Eve!