World
How Some Alabama Hospitals Quietly Drug Test New Mothers - Without Their Consent
As hundreds of Alabama women face child endangerment charges, hospitals are mostly mum on their testing policies - even with the patients
 
This story was co-published with AL.com.
 
In Alabama, a positive drug test can have dire repercussions for pregnant women and new mothers. Their newborns can be taken from them. They can lose custody of their other children. They can face lengthy sentences in the most notorious women’s prison in the United States and thousands of dollars in fees and fines. 
 
Yet the hospitals that administer those drug tests — and turn the results over to authorities — are exceedingly reluctant to disclose their policies to the public. In many cases, they test mothers and babies without explicit consent and without warning about the potential consequences, ProPublica and AL.com have found.
 
According to a review of hundreds of court records, drug testing is ubiquitous in some Alabama counties — sometimes of mothers, sometimes of infants, sometimes both. In some parts of the state, hospitals test on a case-by-case basis, employing criteria that virtually ensure greater scrutiny for poor women. 
 
ProPublica and AL.com began examining hospital drug-testing policies as part of an investigation into Alabama’s chemical endangerment law, the country’s toughest law targeting drug use in pregnancy. Since 2006, the law has been used to charge nearly 500 women with endangering their unborn children. In many cases, law enforcement officials cited hospital-administered drug tests as probable cause for arrest.
 
Forty-two of the 49 hospitals that deliver babies in Alabama declined to answer an AL.com/ProPublica questionnaire about testing policies, despite repeated requests over several months. Of the seven that did respond, three provided only partial information. Officials at several hospitals declined interview requests to explain why they didn’t want to answer the questionnaires.
 
In six consent forms obtained from patients and a handful of hospitals — paperwork that patients sign when they check in to deliver their babies — drug testing is specifically mentioned in only two. None indicate that positive results can trigger arrest and prosecution under the Alabama chemical endangerment statute.
 
“If hospitals are not informing their patients about what their drug-testing policies are, particularly when those results are used to involve law enforcement in their patients’ lives, that is an unconstitutional act,” said Sara Ainsworth, director of legal advocacy for the New York–based National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
 
Under Alabama law, drug abuse in pregnancy is considered a form of child abuse, and medical providers are “mandatory reporters,” meaning they are required to report positive test results to child welfare authorities, who then must report them to law enforcement. At least 15 other states also treat prenatal drug use as child abuse, but only three — Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee — explicitly allow mothers to be criminally prosecuted.
 
The potential penalties under Alabama law are especially stiff: one to 10 years in prison if a baby is exposed but suffers no ill effects; 10 to 20 years if a baby shows signs of exposure or harm; and 10 to 99 years if a baby dies.
 
Rosemary Blackmon, executive vice president of the Alabama Hospital Association, spoke on behalf of three hospitals that declined to answer the AL.com/ProPublica questionnaire. She said hospitals fear that discussing their drug testing policies could keep pregnant women from… Continue Reading…
 

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US Congress passes short-term funding bill to avoid government shutdown
The US Congress on Wednesday passed a short-term government spending bill to prevent a government shutdown.
 
The House voted 277-151 in favor of the bill, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday in a 78-20 vote, Xinhua news agency reported.
 
The bill now heads to the President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law before the current funding for government agencies expires at midnight. The fiscal year 2015 for the US government will end at midnight and a new fiscal year will start from October 1.
 
The bill will keep the government running through December 11. The mid-December deadline is expected to set up the major fight in Washington, as there is still large gap between the conservative Republicans and the Democrats on such issues as the Planned Parenthood, the women's reproductive health-care service.
 
Other challenges facing the Congress include raising the debt ceiling and funding the Highway Trust Fund. US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said that measures used by the Treasury Department to hold off default would last at least through October and probably longer.
 
Following the passage of the bill, the White House said in a statement that President Obama will sign the bill into law, but called on the Congress to pass a budget that reverses spending cuts known as sequestration.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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ISRO to contest damages in Devas-Antrix deal
In a belated response, state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Wednesday said it would contest the damages an international arbitration court awarded to its commercial arm for cancelling a satellite contract in 2011 with a multimedia services provider.
 
"The ICC award against Antrix in the Devas case is shocking. Antrix, with the support of Department of Space, is preparing to file in court its application for remedy," the space agency said in a statement here.
 
The Netherlands-based International Criminal Court (ICC) tribunal recently awarded $672-million (Rs.4,434 crore) damages to Antrix Corporation for scrapping the $300-million deal with the city-based Devas Multimedia Ltd.
 
Ruling in favour of the company in the controversial case, the court found Antrix liable for unlawfully terminating the agreement in 2011, Devas said in a statement here.
 
The then UPA government cancelled the controversial Devas-Antrix contract in February 2011, invoking sovereignty and decided to use the advanced satellite (GSAT-6) for the country's strategic use.
 
Under the annulled deal, Antrix was to lease transponders of the satellite to Devas for allowing it to offer digital multimedia services using the S-band wavelength (spectrum), reserved for strategic purpose.
 
The space agency, however, launched the controversial satellite (GSAT-6) on August 27 from its spaceport at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, about 90 km north of Chennai, as a communication satellite, using a heavy rocket.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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