Friday, February 20, 2009

Making miscarriage a crime

I present for your horrified review, legislation actually being proposed here in Tennessee:

SB 1065 by Marrero B (HB 0890 by Hackworth)

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 68, relative to testing for certain substances in pregnant women.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:
SECTION 1.Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 68, Chapter 5, is amended by adding Section 2 of this act as a new part thereto.

SECTION 2.
(a) The general assembly declares that, as a matter of public policy of this state and in
the interest of public health, pregnant women who abuse alcohol and drugs pose a risk to their unborn children. Pregnant women who meet certain criteria, as determined by the department, through rules and regulations duly promulgated in accordance with the provisions of the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, shall be tested for alcohol and drugs in order to encourage them to seek immediate treatment for an alcohol-related or drug-related problem.

(b) If the department levies a fee or charge for the cost of testing, it shall use the same billing and collection methods normally used by independent private laboratories. Any fee shall be waived for patients who are unable to pay.

(c) The department, in promulgating rules to implement this act, shall consider the following as indications of the necessity for alcohol or drug testing:
(1) No prenatal care;
(2) Late prenatal care after twenty-four (24) weeks gestation;
(3) Incomplete prenatal care;
(4) Abruptio placentae;
(5) Intrauterine fetal death;
(6) Preterm labor of no obvious cause;
(7) Intrauterine growth retardation of no obvious cause;
(8) Previously known alcohol or drug abuse; or
(9) Unexplained congenital anomalies.

(d) The commissioner of health is authorized to adopt rules, using criteria established by the United States department of health and human services as guidelines for modeling the drug and alcohol testing program pursuant to this act, concerning, but not limited to:
(1) Standards for licensing drug and alcohol testing laboratories and suspension and revocation of the licenses;
(2) Body specimens and minimum specimen amounts that are appropriate for drug or alcohol testing;
(3) Methods of analysis and procedures to ensure reliable drug or alcohol testing results, including the use of breathalyzers and standards for initial tests and confirmation tests;
(4) Minimum cut-off detection levels for alcohol, each drug or metabolites of the drug for the purposes of determining a positive test result;
(5) Chain-of-custody procedures to ensure proper identification, labeling and handling of specimens tested; and
(6) Retention, storage and transportation procedures to ensure reliable results on confirmation tests and retests.

(e) Prior to acting on the proposed rules to implement this chapter, the commissioner shall submit the proposed rules to the house health and human resources and the senate general welfare committees of the general assembly for their review and comment. The committees shall have forty-five (45) days to review the proposed rules and transmit any comment it may have to the commissioner.

(f) Any woman who tests positive for alcohol or drugs on a test administered pursuant to this chapter shall be referred to treatment for an alcohol-related or drug-related problem. Every physician, surgeon or other person permitted by law to attend a pregnant woman during gestation shall report each woman who refuses to seek treatment for an alcohol-related or drug-related problem or who misses two (2) or more appointments to the department of children's services. Such reports shall be in a manner specified by the department, either by contacting a local representative of the department or by utilizing the department's centralized intake procedure, where applicable.

(g) A health care provider who makes a report of alcohol or drug abuse, as required by subsection (f), shall not be liable in any civil or criminal action that is based solely upon such report.

(h) Nothing in this section shall be construed to confer any immunity upon a health care provider for a criminal or civil action arising out of the treatment of a woman about whom the report of alcohol or drug abuse was made.

(i) All information, interviews, reports, statements, memoranda and drug or alcohol test results, written or otherwise, received by the covered employer through a drug or alcohol testing program are confidential communications and may not be used or received in evidence, obtained in discovery or disclosed in any public or private proceedings, except in accordance with this section.

(j) Laboratories, medical review officers, employee assistance programs, drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs and their agents who receive or have access to information concerning drug or alcohol test results shall keep all information confidential. Release of the information under any other circumstance is authorized solely pursuant to a written consent form signed voluntarily by the person tested, unless the release is compelled by a hearing officer or a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to an appeal taken under this section, relevant to a legal claim asserted by the employee or is deemed appropriate by a professional or occupational licensing board in a related disciplinary proceeding. The consent form must contain, at a minimum:
(1) The name of the person who is authorized to obtain the information;
(2) The purpose of the disclosure;
(3) The precise information to be disclosed;
(4) The duration of the consent; and
(5) The signature of the person authorizing release of the information.

(k) Information on drug or alcohol test results for tests administered pursuant to this act shall not be released or used in any criminal proceeding against the woman who was subject to the test. Information released contrary to this section is inadmissible as evidence in the criminal proceeding.

SECTION 3. For the purpose of promulgating rules and regulations, this act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it. For all other purposes this act shall take effect January 1, 2010, the public welfare requiring it.



I read this with my mouth hanging open in shock. Unbelievable.

So if this law is enacted, it means that any woman who suffers a miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious pregnancy complications, or who gives birth to a disabled child, will face state-mandated drug testing.

I really can't frame my own response to this vile legislation any better than fellow Tennessee blogger Aunt B already did, so I'll just quote her here:


But here's the best part. If your pregnancy just isn't going right-the placenta comes open or the fetus dies or you go into labor early for no discernible reason, or the fetus isn't growing fast enough, or the fetus has congenital anomalies-and let me remind you these are all things that just happen during pregnancies; things go wrong, for no reason, all the time-the State wants to drug test you.

And let's say that they do. Let's say that you start to miscarry. You have spotting and cramping and it's pretty obvious and inevitable what's going on. Maybe you have a bottle of wine to help you through. You've just done into labor early for no discernible reason and your fetus is dead for no discernible reason and when they drug test you, they're going to find that you've been drinking.

What do you think is going to come of that?

This is what I mean when I say that the reproductive rights fight is going to be had on the bodies of women who miscarry. And these legislators, Hackworth and Marrero are Democrats. These are the folks who are supposed to be on the side of women and they want to give the State the right to start sniffing around if your pregnancy doesn't go right?

This bill opens the door to the State blaming women who miscarry for those miscarriages. Shoot, it doesn't just open the door. It opens the door and escorts the State right in.

They cannot make it illegal, still, thank god, for you to be pregnant in your own way. They cannot legally require you to go to the doctor. They cannot hold you legally responsible for the death of your fetus.

But they want to. And so this is an end run around that. If you won't do what they want you to do, they will drug test you and force you into treatment if they don't like what they've found. In other words, you will be punished for, in the case of imbibing alcohol, something that is perfectly legal. Something most doctors will tell you is fine on occassion when you are pregnant.

In other words, the precident they're setting is that, once you are pregnant, your body is not your own. You no longer know what's best for you. Your doctor no longer knows what's best for you. You are not allowed to not realize you're pregnant. You're not allowed to be afraid. You're not allowed to be too poor to go to the doctor. You have to do what the State tells you to do while you're pregant, because, while you're pregnant, your body is not your own.

And here's the other thing. Can we just not beat around the bush about the subtext here? It's no coincidence that Memphis has an infant mortality rate so depressingly high that it might as well be a hundred years ago over there and that Marrero is bringing the bill. You cannot be a human being with a soul and look at what's going on in Memphis, or shoot, in neighborhoods here in Nashville, and not have your heart come right out sobbing into your hands.

But treating women like, once they're pregnant, the State needs to control them is vile. It just is. There's no way around it and wanting to protect babies doesn't make it okay to assume that the problem lies solely with the mothers.

If Marrero makes a medical decision I don't like, should I have the right to force her to take a drug test, make sure she hasn't been drinking too much?

The sad truth is that pregnancies end for all kinds of reasons. Some women can go their whole pregancies not even knowing they're pregnant, drinking and drugging it up, and their kids come out with no ill-effects. Many, many women in this State try their hardest to do the right thing every step of the way-doctor visits, vitamins, no alcohol use, etc.-and they still lose their pregnancies. They still have babies who are too sick to make it through the year. It's not anyone's fault. It just happens. And I know my fair share of women in that situation and they all blame themselves at some level. Adding to their suffering by having the state step in and act like they're to blame is cruel.

11 comments:

  1. Wow! Talk about adding insult to injury. A woman going though the emotional trials of a miscarriage, will have the extra worry of passing a drug/alcohol test. As if women who miscarry don't feel guilty enough!?!

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  2. How do we fight this?

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  3. This is something that was clearly written by a man. They just don't get it. I had a miscarriage in February, and if that wasn't bad enough, tack on "This might be aaaalllll your fault." The reason I say that a man wrote that is because a woman knows, whether or not she's ever had a miscarriage, that we beat ourselves up every day about it, and most times, without cause. What could I have done differently? Is it because I slipped one day? Or because I slept on my stomach before I knew I was pregnant?
    My dog stepped on my stomach while I was lying in bed during the very beginning of my pregnancy (she didn't know any better). I slipped and fell in my driveway during my pregnancy. Neither of these occurences coincided with when I lost the baby, based on the doctor's measurements. When I was at the doctor's, he estimated that the baby died two days previous. Those instances were weeks before.
    We've all gone over the millions of potential reasons for what we've gone through, and still, most of us come up blank.
    I don't live in Tennessee, but I hope for those of you who do, the women in the legislature will smack some sense into this.

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  4. thank for this nice and informative blog
    here is a blog about women health pregnancy
    and tubal reversal
    http://www.mybabydoc.com/blog/
    tubal reversal

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  5. How awful. I don't think I can say it better than the women above.

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  6. Here is a site with huge Information On Pregnancy Diseases And Genetic Testing. You can find information regarding Miscarriages in the first trimester of pregnancy in: http://www.geneticsofpregnancy.com/Encyclopedia/Miscarriages_in_the_first_trimester_of_pregnancy.aspx?pid=11

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  7. If you haven't been drinking or doing drugs then you should have nothing to worry about. Why should you drink a bottle of wine if you "think" you are going through a miscarry? The only time you would know you are going to miscarry is after you have fully had one, and the thing has passed, until then you may just be going through complications..You can never be certain.

    Most (not all) of birth defects: disabilities and defects are preventable as the use of drugs/alcohol was reported in those cases.

    The legislation isn't making having a miscarriage illegal! As that would be quite ridiculous. It's making sure that the number of children wrongfully maimed for life is reduced and that mothers who don't take care while pregnant by at the very least refraining from drinking and doing drugs is also reduced.

    Unless you plan to be a careless mother. Why, why, why would you be against this?

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  8. yeah you are saying good.Miscarriage is a crime..Every woman has right to dream of having a baby. Tubal reversal allows a woman the ability to conceive naturally without any harm. Although tubal ligation is considered a permanent method of birth control.

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  9. yes i really appreciated your thoughts about miscarriage taking you from her darkest moments of grief, despair, isolation, anxiety, fear and depression to the steps she took towards healing and recovery. Here are some suggestions prove to be helpful in balancing the emotional peaks and valleys after suffering such a heartbreaking loss.

    Grieving a loss of a baby

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  10. Wow, talk about extreme emotional abuse. I was taking medications when I had my miscarriage but, it wasn't on purpose. It was simply for the fact of a disease I had and it was to better my health for me and the baby. That's not fair to parents like me..

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