Drug Testing and the “Bad Mom” Rhetoric

Source: The Courier-Mail

Source: The Courier-Mail

When we continue to point out the (obvious) and singularly focused detriments to babies born to drug-addicted mothers, we fuel an already existing dichotomy that pits women against their fetuses.

As though, when pregnant, it’s some kind of “us vs. them” situation where each battles for their own individual rights and survival.

As though the two are not intimately connected, not pumping the same blood fed by the same heart.

It presumes that, given the opportunity, women will maliciously harm themselves and premeditatively damage their children.

It confuses addiction as an illness with addiction as a crime.

A woman addicted to pain killers loves her baby no less than the woman addicted to sugar and dyes, feeding her body chemicals and starving herself and her baby of vital nutrients throughout her pregnancy.

And if all of the forced interventions and tests hinge on the “for the good of the baby” argument, where does it end? Shall we monitor women’s diets or mandate supplementation of folic acid for all women of childbearing age in order to reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects?

Those babies may also suffer.

Shall we launch an offensive on their mothers? Shall we turn pregnancy into a Police State so as to protect all babies from the selfish hosts that carry them? Or should we make the wild leap and assume that all women care about their pregnancies and their babies?

Should we hold women with compassion and support, or with contempt?

It is possible to care about newborns who suffer with dependency symptoms and simultaneously demand that their mothers receive non-stigmatized, non-criminalized support.

It’s possible to recognize that there are circumstances in which women are mentally unfit to parent, while holding the belief that screening all women as routine in order to find them is not the answer; that criminalizing women who seek support is not the answer.

Female headshot - facial expressionIt’s time to stop talking about this issue as though there is a singular entity affected by addiction; as though addiction looks the same from woman to woman, experience to experience; as though women with addiction are repulsive and discardable, or that all women with addiction are engulfed in a downward spiral, being eaten alive by the substance that controls them.

It’s time to hold space for the myriad experiences women face – from severe and ever spiraling heroin addiction, to false positive drug test results, legal THC prescriptions, and doctor-supervised Buprenorphine treatment.

Let’s end the rhetoric that holds women in blanket contempt of their very own bodies and the babies that they carry, and radically assume that women hold value – to themselves, to their babies, and to the world.

You may also enjoy this article for a more detailed analysis on the inherent trouble with drug testing and criminalizing pregnant women. 

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  1. gothicgaelicgirl says

    I just stumbled upon this site yesterday, what a brilliant in-depth approach to addressing these subjects!
    I must ask- I am looking into hospital birth vs domino scheme (home birth room) and I must ask has anyone experienced prejudice based off appearances?

    I noted above that a drug test was given to a woman who had tattoos and piercings.
    I have multiple tattoos, over 20 piercings and have bad scarring on my thighs and wrists from a bad case of depression whehnI was 15. I am 23 now.
    Could they force someone who looks like me to have a drug test?

    I do worry if we ever DO have a child, how I will be treated due to my appearance. I’ve had people tell me “O just take them out”, but that is not who I am.

    If I have to remove my facial piercings because some medical staff aren’t “comfortable” with them, why don’t women with long hair have to cut it, or women who wear fake tan have to leave it off?

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