Indiana Attorney General Wants to Save State Money By Drug Testing All Pregnant Women
The theory goes that if you're pregnant and on drugs, the state has a right to know and intervene. And if you're pregnant and not on drugs—well, what's a little loss of bodily autonomy? Think of the babieeeeeees!
The whole scheme illustrates just how much some people believe pregnant bodies are public goods.
Obviously, we don't want pregnant women doing drugs—but that desire alone isn't enough to justify invading the privacy and violating the rights of all pregnant women in Indiana. And neither is cutting state health care costs, which is the actual reason Zoeller gave for his proposal.
According to Zoeller, who also co-chair the state's Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, newborns exposed to illegal drugs cost Indiana hospitals an estimated $30 million annually. By treating pregnant women as less-than-fully-autonomous beings, the state may be able to cut back on these costs. And who doesn't want to bring down the deficit?
But administering and enforcing all this drug testing will surely bring its own large financial costs. And for what purpose? The likely result of such a measure would be to stop drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking prenatal care at all.
It's also full of slippery-slope potential. If this passed, what's to stop legislators from instituting mandatory alcohol testing next? Or why not test for nicotine? OTC meds that aren't good for developing fetuses? Lunch meat and raw fish?
Fortunately, it doesn't seem like Zoeller's plan is terribly popular among Indiana legislators, or the general public. Republican Senator Pat Miller said the state legislature would "explore other options" aside from mandatory drug testing in order to address this issue. And a petition is circulating to get Zoeller to apologize for his proposal and "stop inciting disrespect for civil liberties during pregnancy."
UPDATED: Since this story was published by various media organizations yesterday, the press office for Zoeller has been reaching out to the media to clarify his comments. The press office reports that Indiana Public Media will be publishing a revised story, while other outlets like Shakesville have published a transcript of a radio program in which Zoeller appears to suggest said tests.