Tennessee Proposes Drug Testing Pregnant Women

Elisabeth Garber-Paul

Now, for the umpteenth round of "keep your laws off my body."

Now, for the umpteenth round of "keep your laws off my body."

The bill, SB1065/HB0890, introduced in the Tennessee House by Representative Jim Hackworth and in the Senate by Beverly Marrero, both Democrats, could require women who are pregnant to submit to drug testing if the state thinks they aren’t being the best expecting mothers they possibly can be.

Mothers who test positive for drugs or alcohol, according to the legislation, are asked to submit to state-mandated rehab. The language of the law seems to intend to prevent children from ending up in the care of incompetent parents—but brings up some sticky issues about the right of the government to tell a woman what she may or may not do to her body.

Used to have a drinking problem? Drug test. Miss two appointments with your OB/GYN? Drug test. Here’s the best part—miscarriage? Get in line for the drug test.

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That’s what a woman needs when she goes through something as traumatic as losing a child – actions from the state government that make her feel as though it could have been her fault and not a fluke occurrence that happens hundreds of thousands of times a year. According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 2 million women in the United States lose their pregnancies every year, and 600,000 of those are miscarriages. It’s as if the state just wants to add another layer of distress for the woman. In this time of need, we want you to feel comfortable. Here’s your mother, a cup of tea, and please would you mind peeing in this cup so we can see if it was your fault?

I assume that the bill isn’t intended for occasional wine drinkers, but methamphetamine and hard drug users who, lawmakers think, would put the fetus in danger – even though the assumption that drug use harms fetuses has been exposed as junk science.  Obviously a pregnant woman shouldn’t smoke or use drugs—but for the state to legislate a person’s behavior is a clear violation of their rights. Why focus on legislation and punishment instead of education and outreach? I understand that the state is concerned with having drug addicts put their unborn child’s health at risk – but it’s not in their power to legislate how a woman should treat their body during pregnancy – or at any other time, for that matter.

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