New York hospital reports moms after poppy seeds yield positive drug tests

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MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Friday, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) filed human rights complaints on behalf of two moms who were drug tested while giving birth. They said Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown reported the mothers to child protective services over false positives caused by eating poppy seeds.

“Garnet Health turned the joy of becoming a new mom into an absolute nightmare,” said one New York mom, identified as Crystal H. Her positive test result reportedly came from a breakfast bagel; the other mother, identified as Jane Doe, had eaten a salad with poppyseed dressing.

The complaint alleges that the Orange County hospital drug tested the moms without their consent. Both mothers and their newborns later tested negative. The NYCLU and NAPW want to end the nonconsensual drug testing of pregnant people, a practice they call discriminatory. They’re calling on the state to pass legislation requiring informed consent to drug test pregnant New Yorkers.

Advocates say that low-income, Black, and Latinx New Yorkers are routinely threatened with being separated from their children by the health care industry based on accusations of drug use. They argue that a nonconsensual drug test is more often ordered because of racist stereotypes rather than a legitimate health concern.

The hospital allegedly referred the families to the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). That lead to local child welfare authorities searching their homes, incidents that the NYCLU calls “invasive.” And because of the positive drug test, the hospital also reportedly interfered with breastfeeding. “Those bonding moments with my newborn are moments I will never get back,” Crystal said.

“By drug testing me without my consent and reporting a false presumptive positive result to child welfare authorities, Garnet Health turned what should have been the most meaningful moment of my life into the most traumatic one,” said Jane Doe. In a statement, she said they “treated me like an unfit mother, told me I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed, repeatedly denied my requests for a confirmatory test, and ensured my name would be on the [SCR].”

According to the NYCLU, drug testing pregnant people is medical racism arising from the War on Drugs, casting suspicion on people of color, increasing stigma, and flooding CPS with false reports. They also said that medically unnecessary drug testing without informed consent drives the disproportionally high mortality among pregnant women of color.

Take a look at both human rights complaints below—first Crystal’s, then Jane’s:

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