Tennessee Proposes Drug Testing Pregnant Women


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.

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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  • invalid-0

    Wouldn’t this legislation have the effect of increasing abortion rates, miscarriage, stillbirth, maternal injury/mortality, etc?

    The genii is out of the bottle. Women will not tolerate state intrusion into this most intimate area of their lives. If the Tennessee legislature believes that the women most at risk of drug and alcohol abuse will suddenly see the light…well, my eldest son would like a taste of whatever thse folks are smoking.

    In a way, I almost wish that such rubbish would make in onto the books…just to watch the fallout. As soon as those “good” women from “good” families are hauled up for interrogation and investigation…it will get ugly.

  • invalid-0

    I’ve heard about some irresponsible acquaintances of mine popping pills and chasing them with whiskey while pregnant, and I have to say while I normally am not into any sort of government interference, I wish someone would have made them take a drug test (premature and unhealthy babies make jesus cry {that was sarcastic by the way}). I frankly think some people shouldn’t reproduce at all, heavy drug users being among them. It may not be the governments place to say, mostly because our government is run by idiots, but somebody should be stepping in…

  • invalid-0

    Well look on the bright side….on the basis of what people HEAR…Tennessee women, pregnant or not…will become public property, under this legislation.

  • invalid-0

    The fact that you know a few women who popped pills during pregnancy, or that you believe some people aren’t fit for parenting, is completely irrelevant to this topic. First, this bill, if passed, will disproportionately affect low-income women and women of color, who already lack access to basic healthcare. It is obvious that these women would lack prenatal care in the first place if they don’t even have access (to healthcare). It would also criminalize pregnant women with substance abuse problems. This needs to be treated as a health issue, and especially as a public health issue since substance abuse stems from systematic and sociological issues. These issues are complex and need to be handled practically and thoughtfully. This bill, if passed, would not do anything to actually solve these problems, it will maintain them.

  • invalid-0

    Let’s not rush to judgement on Sen. Marrero, one of the few vocal and very active pro-choice legislators here in Tennessee. I don’t know what the explanation is for the introduction of this half-baked legislation, but both Marrero and Rep. Hackworth are usually progressive and conscientious legislators. The legislative session has just started here, and there was an early filing deadline for legislation. Since it hasn’t even been assigned to a committee yet, there’s plenty of time to work through any issues there may be with it.

  • invalid-0

    After reading the language of the bill, it certainly seems to have potential for abuse. The vague criminal and civil action language is pretty scary, but seems directed more at practitioners. If it were a best practices guideline, some of the provisions could have merit as part of an OB/Gyn CE course. I can’t see many doctors supporting this bill as written.

  • garetth

    I am sorry but I don’t see anything wrong in drug testing pregnant women, nobody wants to hurt them, on the contrary, this is for the sake of their pregnancy, it’s for their babies. Pregnant women with drug addiction problems put their babies lives in danger or they just give birth to unhealthy condemned children. What’s more dramatic: a drug testing or an addicted newborn? If addicted mothers get addiction treatment in time their stories could have a lot better chances for a happy ending.