Well Being

Discriminatory Maternity Wards Test Low-Income Minority Moms For Marijuana

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shutterstock_86083978In a policy that some are saying is nothing but discriminatory, more than a dozen maternity wards in lower-income parts of New York are routinely testing new mothers for marijuana and other drugs and then turning any positive results over to child-protection authorities.

A number of hospitals that primarily serve low-income urban moms are now making these drug tests routine–and even mandatory in some cases. It's a move that is helping to identify mothers who may not be able to adequately care for their newborn, some say.  Family court attorneys report that they see many cases of neglect each year from those mothers who tested positive for marijuana in the maternity ward. Nearly all of these moms are low-income and minority women.

On the flip side, private hospitals in more affluent neighborhoods rarely test new mothers for drugs. For example, according to the Daily News, a higher income hospital like Lenox Hill Hospital on the upper East Side only tests for drugs if the mother is obviously buzzed, a spokeswoman told them.

Meanwhile, the lower-income hospital, St. Barnabas, requires all new mothers to agree to testing. If they refuse, their babies are automatically tested. A spokesman for the hospital, Steve Clark, said they get a handful of positive drug tests every month:

This is a high-risk population in this hospital. The intent is to help them deliver healthy babies.

It may help deliver healthier babies and get mothers help if they need it, but it's also a blatant act of discrimination and stereotyping against poor and minority mothers.

“It’s absolutely discriminatory,” said Lynn Paltrow of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “This all comes out of the same history of racism, the drug war, misinformation.”

Agreed. The better–and more equatable–solution would be to routinely administer drug tests for every new mother, because it is completely unfair to assume that affluent women don't do drugs and low-income ones do.

Tell us what you think. Is this a good policy? Or is it discriminatory?

Photo: shutterstock.com