Dumb Indiana Proposal Would Punish Pregnant Drug Addicts

Illustration for article titled Dumb Indiana Proposal Would Punish Pregnant Drug Addicts

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!


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Macabre Cadabra

I knew this would crop up on Jezebel, and why why whyyy didn't you include more information? Al-Jazeera has a more detailed analysis, including what the bill ISN'T. Quotes from Twitter already indicate misinformation that the proposed bill is for ALL pregnant women — and it's not. The AG himself says the aim is not to take away Medicare or throw people in jail (whether or not it would come to that in practice is another story, but this Jez article is so devoid of nuance that we can't even discuss it).

Now, does this mean I think it's a good idea? Do I support it? NOPE. But ughhhhhh lazy lazy lazy lazy lazy. We're adults. We can talk about this in adult ways that are detailed.