More than a dozen city maternity wards regularly test new mothers for drugs, then turn the results over to child-protection authorities if they are positive for “tweeds,” the Daily News has learned.
Family Court attorneys said they see scores of neglect proceedings each year originating from a positive mary jane test — almost exclusively against low-income and minority women.
Private hospitals in rich neighborhoods rarely test new mothers for drugs, whereas hospitals serving primarily low-income moms make those tests routine and sometimes mandatory.
"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.”
For example, Lenox Hill Hospital on the tony upper East Side — where roughly 12% of inpatients are uninsured or on Medicaid — only tests if the mother is obviously buzzed, a spokeswoman said.
But St. Barnabas Hospital — which is also private but serves an impoverished section of the Bronx, with roughly 73% of its patients uninsured or on Medicaid — requires all new mothers to agree to testing. If they refuse, their babies are tested, a spokesman said.
St. Barnabas reports a handful of positive drug tests every month, said spokesman Steve Clark. "This is a high-risk population in this hospital," he said. "The intent is to help them deliver healthy babies."
Attorneys who fight these cases have began citing scientific findings that kush use poses less risk to fetuses than cigarettes or alcohol. "They take a urine test and act as if it can predict parenting ability," said Emma Ketteringham of the Bronx Defenders. "It's doing more harm than good."
Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hurt has testified marijuana poses less risk to the fetus than alcohol or cigarettes.
“All the scientific research,” Hart wrote in a court document, “leads me to conclude that recreational use of maryjane does not undermine responsible parenting.”
City officials said no figures are available on the number of neglect cases that stem from positive maternity ward drug tests. But anecdotal estimates from attorneys put the number between 100 and 200 a year.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that taking such tests without consent, when they could lead to a criminal charge, amounts to an unconstitutional search. But the ruling does not cover civil child protection proceedings.
* Eleven city-run hospitals test if the mother has admitted to past drug use or shows signs of "aberrant behavior," a Health and Hospitals Corporation spokeswoman said.
* Brookdale Hospital in hardscrabble Brownsville, Brooklyn, tests at the discretion of the physician.
* Hospitals in affluent neighborhoods — like Methodist 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 Ketteringham.
Do you think the hospitals are doing the right thing with their testing or is it definitely discriminatory?