Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Indiana AG Can't Take The Heat for Proposing Mandatory Drug Testing Pregnant Women

Earlier this week I wrote an article about the Indiana Attorney General arguing in favor of mandatory drug testing of pregnant women, and the concerns everyone should have, especially considering the state's history of charging pregnant women with crimes.

In a complaint to the Care2 website, under an email that accused my story of being "inaccurate and misleading" an A.G. spokesperson said I was completely wrong.  "[C]comments should not be interpreted to imply that he supports mandatory opioid testing of any kind for pregnant women," the office's spokesperson wrote.

But that's not what he said, according to the original report I read in the Indiana Public Media. And it's pretty hard to deny the words in this follow up interview, conducted after the initial report, and which local advocates alerted me to.

MR. MCCONNAUGHAY: Oh, that’s terrible. I got another one here, uh, there’s been a lot of press recently expressing your support for mandatory drug testing of all pregnant women – [emphasis added]


MR. MCCONNAUGHAY: Similar question – I’m a believer in the Fourth Amendment and observing pregnancy itself is not a reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior. Can you explain why you consider this measure, which appears so brazenly to violate the Constitution, to be legal?

MR. ZOELLER: Well it is legal. I’ll tell you, everybody’s jumping to the conclusion that when you do a drug screen, you uh – uh, turn somebody in to the police. That’s not what we’re looking for. You’re already given a drug screen, so they’re drawing the blood anyway –


MR. ZOELLER: I’m asking that they do another screen to see if you are addicted to opiates or other things that would harm you as well as the baby. The doctor really ought to know that, and most – let’s say, a lot of what we hear is the – the women who are pregnant will lie about having a drug problem and they don’t know about it until the baby’s born addicted –


MR. ZOELLER: So this neonatal abstinence syndrome – we’re not trying to send somebody to court and to be prosecuted. Uh, we’re not trying to, uh, take away their benefits from Medicaid, ‘cause a lot of these women are Medicaid recipients –


MR. ZOELLER: This is all about the health of the mother, the health of the baby. And it’s not a new draw; it’s something we’re already taking the blood from the pregnant woman, we just want it screened for opiates.

Those statements seem pretty hard to interpret any other way than that the A.G. supports mandatory drug testing.  I welcome another email from the  A.G. office if they would like to clarify how it is not.

There is a petition to urge the A.G.'s office to follow the constitution and give up the idea of mandatory drug testing of pregnant women. I urge everyone to sign it, since it appear that public scrutiny and blowback makes the office very uncomfortable.

Edited to add: I of course welcome the news that the AG has hopefully changed his mind and will not propose that drug tests be mandatory.  I just prefer I not be told that I am the one doing the "misleading."


  1. Thank you for letting people know about this issue. For some reason the GOP seems abnormally obsessed with womens sex lives. That's the only explanation I can come up with for their collective behavior.

  2. So his defense is that it is legal to search without consent as long as you don't turn over the information to the police or arrest them? That's pretty shaky ground. 11 on the Richter scale shaky.

  3. He sure doesn't promise that the information won't be turned over to law enforcement. I believe he finds the coercive power attractive in leveraging treatment. He doesn't understand that there are gender differences in addiction and that early pregnancy can be a time of uniquely powerful self motivation if it comes from a position of strength.

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