Public hospitals continue to drug-test mothers and newborn babies for marijuana, despite the fact that such tests have been shown to be inaccurate and that common soaps used to wash infants can cause false cannabis positives on such tests. And tragically, mothers are often arrested and separated from their babies.
Mothers in New York City, for instance, who test positive for marijuana after the delivery are likely to have a Child Protective Services investigation to contend with, before they can even get the baby home, reports Kiri Blakeley at The Stir. More than a dozen maternity wards in the Big Apple routinely test new moms for marijuana, then turn the results over to city authorities.
City officials claim no figures are available on the number of “neglect” cases that result simply from positive maternity ward drug tests. But estimates from attorneys put the number between 100 and 200 mothers charged every year, reports Oren Yaniv of the New York Daily News.
|National Advocates for Pregnant Women|
|Emma Ketteringham, Bronx Defenders: “They take a urine test and act as if it can predict parenting ability. It’s doing more harm than good.”|
Did I mention that these moms are (of course) almost exclusively minorities and low income? Suburban white women on prescription medication like Xanax have nothing to fear.
Hospitals in affluent neighborhoods like Methodist Hospital in Park Slope and Lenox Hill on the Upper East Side test only on rare occasions. That’s why “you just don’t have these cases in privileged women,” said attorney Emma Ketteringham of the Bronx Defenders.
Family court lawyers are seeing more and more “neglect” cases brought against new mothers, simply because they tested positive for marijuana after delivery. One hospital in the Bronx requires moms to be drug tested. If they refuse, the babies are tested.
One woman who tested positive at this hospital said she had smoked marijuana two weeks before at a party, and the hospital held her and her baby for two days, only letting her go once subsequent tests came back negative. She was still forced to attend parenting classes, get counseling, and submit to drug testing for a year — “mommy probation.”
“This is a high-risk population in this hospital,” a spokesperson told the Daily News. “The intent is to help them deliver healthy babies.”
Well. If that were truly the intent, then they’d award the mothers who show up positive for cannabis, rather than punishing them — because the best science available shows that mothers who use marijuana during pregnancy have a lower infant mortality rate than mothers who use no “drugs” at all. Another independent scientific study showed that babies of cannabis-using mothers scored better on laboratory tests of cognition than babies of non-toking mothers.
None of this is shocking when you consider that breast milk from mothers naturally contains the body’s own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) which help the infant’s appetite and neural and physical development.
Why does the testing focus on marijuana, and only on low-income urban women? And why isn’t a similar level of concern shown for substances like heroin and meth? Or cigarettes and alcohol? Or Xanax and Vicodin?
“They take a urine test and act as if it can predict parenting ability,” said attorney Ketteringham. “It’s doing more harm than good.”
“All the scientific research leads me to conclude that recreational use of marijuana does not undermine responsible parenting,” agreed Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hurt.