Forced Drug Tests for Pregnant Women Struck Down 

Forced Drug Tests for Pregnant Women Struck Down 
Posted by FoM on March 21, 2001 at 10:41:23 PT
By Charles Lane, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
In a victory for civil-liberties advocates and abortion rights groups, the Supreme Court today ruled that hospitals cannot administer drug tests to pregnant women without their consent and forward positive results to the police.By a vote of 6 to 3, the court held that the drug tests conducted in the past by a Charleston, S.C., public hospital amounted to warrantless police searches of the women. The searches could not be justified by local authorities' expressed interests in protecting the health of the women or their unborn children.
The case had aroused strong feelings because of its potential practical effect on the scope of police power and because it touched on questions of racial discrimination and the legal status of fetal life.The hospital's patient population is overwhelmingly poor and African American. All but one of the 30 women arrested under the policy were black. Mothers who tested positive faced charges not only because cocaine use itself is illegal, but also because, under South Carolina law, a viable fetus is a "person" and a woman who takescocaine while pregnant may be accused of distributing illegal drugs to a minor, or of committing child abuse.The Charleston policy was apparently unique in the country, but a favorable ruling from the court today might have signaled that other jurisdictions could experiment with similar tactics. Instead, the court took the opportunity to say that even an ostensibly well-intentioned curtailment of privacy rights does not necessarily qualify for the "special needs" exception to the search warrant requirement."Given the primary purpose of the Charleston program, which was to use the threat of arrest and prosecution in order to force women into treatment, and given the extensive involvement of law enforcement officials at every stage of the policy, this case simply does not fit" previously-established exceptions to the search warrant requirement, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court majority.He was joined by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote a separate opinion concurring in the judgment for slightly different reasons.The hospital began drug-testing in 1989, during the crack cocaine epidemic, and turned positive results over to police. The policy was changed in 1990 to give drug-using patients a choice between being arrested or enrolling in drug treatment programs.Ten women sued the hospital in 1993, saying the policy violated the Constitution. The hospital, which treats indigent patients, later dropped the policy, but by then police had arrested 30 maternity patients.A federal jury ruled for the hospital and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 1999. The appeals court said the urine tests were "minimally intrusive."Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the ruling, which awarded the plaintiffs damages. Scalia argued both that the drug tests did not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment and that, even if it did, it would have been justified under the "special needs" test. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia's dissent, but only on the second point."Today's judgment, authorizing the assessment of damages against the county solicitor and individual doctors and nurses who participated in the program, proves once again that no good deed goes unpunished," Scalia wrote.The case is Ferguson v. City of Charleston, No. 99-936.In a separate case that will have broad effects on American workplaces, the justiced ruled that employers can force workers to take job-related disputes to arbitration rather than to court.Agreements to arbitrate workplace disputes are enforceable even if the employer required the worker to sign the agreement in order to be hired, the court said. Ruling 5-4 for Circuit City Stores, the justices said a gay former employee cannot sue over alleged harassment at work.Arbitration has increasingly been used to resolve a wide variety of disputes including employment discrimination claims. Supporters of arbitration say it is less complicated and less expensive than a lawsuit.But employees' advocates say the process can be tilted toward employers and that workers forfeit certain rights. Appeals often are limited, damages can be capped and fact-finding can be restricted.Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, being joined by Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas and O'Connor. Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer and Souter dissented.The case is Circuit City Stores v. Adams, 99-1379.Supreme Court Web Site: Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Charles Lane, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, March 21, 2001; 12:54 PM Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles:Court Nixes Hospital Drug Tests Should Not Police Pregnant Women's Actions
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on March 21, 2001 at 12:20:58 PT:
Ironic, truly ironic
"Today's judgment, authorizing the assessment of damages against the county solicitor and individual doctors and nurses who participated in the program, proves once again that no good deed goes unpunished," Scalia wrote.Considering Scalia's record vis-a-vis individual rights as opposed to emcroachment upon those rights by the State - all for our own good, of course - then he's no one to comment.The Supreme Court tortuous, convoluted reasoning process behind its' rulings on illicit drugs would make fascinating reading as fiction...were it not real. "One of the Major Problems of Our Society":Symbolism and Evidence of Drug Harms in U.S. Supreme Court Decisions, from 34 years ago, but as germaine as if it were written yesterday:NOT THINKING LIKE A LAWYER: THE CASE OF DRUGS IN THE COURTS the article:The Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Courts of Appeals have contributed to the generally prevailing confusion, ignorance and prejudice surrounding drug control laws and enforcement policies in this country. Rather than deciding drug law issues based upon the actual effects of drugs and drug control laws, these courts have in the main substituted rhetoric for reason and parroted the "party line" on drugs: That is, there is a need "to combat a national drug problem of epidemic proportion"2 and that "the federal government's efforts to contain and beat back the drug scourge ... depend importantly on convincing all Americans that drug use is as much a danger to them and to our country as is an external enemy."'3Few opinions combine careful reasoning and attention to evidence or empirical knowledge; we are left instead with drug law decisions based mainly on metaphors of outrage at drug users and sellers. Courts denounce the "degeneracy" of "moral perverts," and call them "vampires" or the "walking dead" engaged in "ugly" and "insidious" drug distribution offenses. Generations of scientific research, scholarly analysis, and the reports of learned commissions have been almost completely ignored. The Supreme Court of the United States has never cited the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, the Mayor's Committee on The Marijuana Problem in the City of New York, the Panama Canal Zone Military Investigations, or any of the classic drug policy studies of Canada and Great Britain in opinions concerning drug laws.4 Instead, the volumes of the United States Reports and the Federal Reporter5 are filled with emotionally charged dicta mimicking the political rhetoric that has dominated drug control in the United States since its inception. Consequently, the courts have reinforced congressional determination to "turn the screw" on criminal procedure and have struck a constitutional balance in favor of law enforcement and against individual rights.6 Courts have not advanced the cause of intelligent debate about drug policy.Which was a mouthful, but as true today as when these words were first written. And Scalia is a prime reason why.
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Comment #4 posted by observer on March 21, 2001 at 11:58:38 PT
Rehnquist's Pill-Popping
 Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist . . . joined Scalia's dissentDid the "watchdog" (yeah right) press somhow forget (accidently of course) to mention Rehnquist's past? Think a fact like that would slip their mind when it concerned a reformer? 1981 -- Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist -- who has, for several months, been taking substantial doses of Placidyl to relieve intense back pain -- checks into George Washington Hospital for teatment of side effects, including speech so severly slurred that he was frequently incoherent in court & according to a hospital spokesman, he is "hearing things & seeing things that other people did not hear & see." "... Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist has admitted that he was 'addicted' to the sleeping pill Placidyl for nine years."  
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Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on March 21, 2001 at 11:54:31 PT:
A Difference in Philosophy
"once again that no good deed goes unpunished," Scalia wroteThat's just it, Tony baby. Many of us think you are totally out of touch with concepts of decency to jail poor black women and tear their newborns from their grasp. You would deny our freedoms through some patriarchal urge that allows you to scrutinize our very existence so that we can be incarcerated and silenced for our insolence. People that think this way likely have poorly developed esthetic senses. Can you admire the stars, delight in the scent of a flower, or laugh at children playing? I would tend to doubt it. Many such people see the world as a thing to be exploited and generate capital. We seek better: a world that appreciates knowlege, encourages creativity, cherishes freedom and celebrates diversity. 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 21, 2001 at 11:10:20 PT:
Talk Back Live Chat Today!
Show Time 3 PM ET - Wednesday, March 21, 2001 Should Hospitals Drug Test Pregnant Women Without Their Consent? The Supreme Court ruled today that hospitals cannot test pregnant women for drugs without their consent and turn the results over to police. The 6-3 decision said such drug-testing by a South Carolina public hospital violated the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches even though the goal was to prevent women from harming their unborn baby by using crack cocaine. Should pregnant women be tested for drugs to protect their unborn child or is it a violation of the mother's privacy? Talk Back Live Chat Room:
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Comment #1 posted by Dan Hillman on March 21, 2001 at 10:53:32 PT
Beginning of the end for drug testing?
> The searches could not be justified by local authorities' expressed interests in protecting the health of the women or their unborn children. With a little rewording, this could apply to most drug testing going on today.
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