Drug Testing of Pregnant Women and the Ferguson Case

"Ferguson v. City of Charleston (2001) is an important case in the family law domain because MUSC’s [Medical University of South Carolina] policy of testing pregnant women for illegal drugs raises issues at the intersection of public health and constitutional law. The public-health aspects concern the very real and significant risks to maternal, fetal, and societal well-being of drug use during pregnancy; in addition, the policy raises constitutional questions about what constitutes a reasonable search and seizure and women’ s privacy right to reproductive autonomy. Ultimately, the case addresses how best to strike the sometimes competing interests between mothers and their unborn children.
"Although the policy was discontinued before the Supreme Court’s ruling and the Court held the policy to be unconstitutional, all the components of the decision—majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions—point to ways in which a similar policy could be designed so as to avoid the constitutional pitfalls encountered by the policy in Ferguson (2001). The petitioners won, but their victory is likely to be short lived. Recent developments in a number of states, combined with ongoing public concern about drug abuse, especially by pregnant women, suggest that despite Ferguson’s outcome, pregnant women should not feel too secure from state intervention when receiving prenatal care. Such interventions are likely to have significant consequences for pregnant women’s legal rights, as well as for their health, their fetuses’ health, and their behavior during pregnancy."

Source: 

Brian H. Bornstein, "Pregnancy, Drug Testing, and the Fourth Amendment: Legal and Behavioral Implications," Journal of Family Psychology (American Psychological Association, Inc: 2003), Vol. 17, No.2, p. 227.
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