Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is advocating the testing of all pregnant women in Indiana for drug use. Well, at least he was advocating for that on the twelfth of September. You can listen to him here, starting at slightly after 54 minutes. There's also a transcript of that part of the discussion.
A snippet from it:
MR. ZOELLER: One of the things that’s the most shocking, and I, you know, the whole thing and the number of, you know, 718 deaths last year attributed to drug overdose, prescription drug overdoses, uh, but the rates of addiction, and the one that really bothers me the most is, uh, women who give birth to babies that are addicted –
MR. MCCONNAUGHAY: That’s – that’s gonna play right into a question we got, ‘cause I told you we got a few questions that actually followed you here from Indianapolis –
MR. ZOELLER: Yeah. I hope – I hope those questions are coming –
MR. MCCONNAUGHAY: So let’s knock them down as quickly as we can but, uh, please ask Mr. Zoeller that, uh, mandatory drug screens for Indiana men seeking to donate sperm and buy Viagra. After all, that drug use can lead to mutations in their sperm which can cause birth defects, uh, costing the state money and harming babies. Basically they’re saying, those who wanna get these things, should they be required to go through drug testing?
MR. ZOELLER: You know, that’s not something that our prescription drug abuse task force is focused on. It’s mostly the, uh, I mean the rates of, uh, babies born addicted to opiates is the biggest, I mean the problem literally screams out at us the same way the, the babies scream for six weeks. It can be un- I mean, that you can’t comfort ‘em enough because they’re addicted to drugs.
Now the last exchange between the interviewer (Mr. McConnaughay) and Mr. Zoeller is fascinating! Or rather, Mr. Zoeller's answer is nonsensical. He's just focusing on pregnant women, not on the men who may have participated in the creation of that pregnancy, because he has decided that a particular focus is relevant.
Mr. Zoeller's idea in the above is clearly to require all pregnant women to be screened. There doesn't have to be any grounds for suspecting that any particular woman has been misusing prescription or other drugs.
What would be so bad about that? After all, it's for the good of the fetus and the blood is already being drawn for other purposes?
Let me propose a somewhat different but related example. Suppose that we were able to screen for pedophilia. Should all prospective parents be screened for it? Or should all men be screened for possible tendencies to rape?
Many similar examples could be found in which some other person might benefit from forced screening for various problems. The point is that it is pregnant women who are singled out for this type of treatment, not, say, prospective parents of both sexes, even though sperm quality might be affected by drug use, too.
But is this what Mr. Zoeller is now proposing? Al-Jazeera for America seems to think so, whereas Fox seems to argue that Mr. Zoeller now only wants mandatory verbal screening:
Some women fear Zoeller’s push means mandatory drug testing and punishment for women who fail a drug screening. A national petition has already gotten nearly 4,000 signatures from people demanding Zoeller apologize to all women.
However, Zoeller’s spokesperson said he is not in favor of mandatory universal drug screenings for all pregnant women.
Well, he certainly was for it only a week ago.
What's wrong about the proposal more generally? Mandatory drug screening would scare away those pregnant women who are most likely to have used illegal narcotics. Because the use of prenatal care in pregnancy is a good thing, this outcome is not desirable. Yes, Mr. Zoeller tells us that the results would not be available for law enforcement. But I'm not terribly convinced of that, and doubt that Indiana women are, either.