Rachel has, for your perusal, SB1065/HB0890, which we might call the “The State’s Bodies, Our Selves” bill. This bill would make manditory drug testing for women who don’t act right during pregnancy. If you don’t get pre-natal care, the State wants the right to drug test you. If you don’t come in for prenatal care promptly once the fetus is viable, they want the right to drug test you. If you don’t get the right kind of prenatal care, they want the right to drug test you. In other words, if you act in any way “abnormal,” the going assumption is going to be that you must be on drugs.
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.
And I have to wonder if any doctors were consulted on this, because I have to believe that, even if you’re addicted to crystal meth and crack cocaine at the same time and you’re so desperate for your next heroin fix that you’re licking it off of floors in bathrooms, your OB wants you to come in for prenatal care. If the option is “drug addicted mother/no care” and “drug addicted mother/care,” the doctor is going to advocate for a patient seeking care, even if and especially if the patient is not in great health.
Threatening to drug test drug addicts if their pregnancies don’t go well is not going to encourage drug addicts to get clean, it’s going to discourage drug addicts from going to the doctor.
And I cannot believe that that’s the outcome Marrero and Hackworth are hoping for.
Edited to add: This has been cross-posted over at Shakesville and the discussion over there is astute and passionate. I encourage you to check it out.
Edited again to add: This post does a great job of getting at things from a couple of different and important angles.
Edited a third time to add: It’s also being discussed at Feministing now.
Edited yet again to add: Rachel made RADLEY FUCKING BALKO’S blog and I died of jealousy. Um. I mean, even the libertarians have been alerted to this.