Indiana lawmakers are looking into possibly requiring drug tests for pregnant women.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says he is looking for options to bring down the number of drug-affected births, in an effort to keep newborns healthy and cut health care costs. Zoeller says it cost Indiana hospitals about $30 million in 2011 to treat Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which affects babies whose mothers took addictive or illegal drugs while pregnant.
Lawmakers agree it's important to keep Indiana newborns healthy, but some are not convinced a mandated drug test is the way to do it.
As a volunteer at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, it's Vickie Gorzkiewicz's job to hold and care for newborns. She remembers rocking a baby who was going through drug addiction withdrawal because the baby's mother had taken illegal drugs while pregnant.
"The cry is different. They just — it's a cry, it's not a normal cry," Gorzkiewicz says. "They're going through withdrawal and they don't know how to deal with it."
Drug testing is just one of the possibilities legislators are considering.
Zoeller first discussed the idea with the Commission on Mental Health and Addiction, and was met with national backlash.
An online petition asking Zoeller to stop any progress on this proposal — and to apologize for it — has drawn more than 3,400 signatures across the country.
But Zoeller's office released a statement to WSBT stating, "The attorney general's comments should not be interpreted to imply that he supports mandatory opioid testing of any kind for pregnant women – he does not. The task force is currently working on viable solutions to address the spike in NAS cases in Indiana and plans to put forth a series of recommendations in the next few months for the Legislature to consider."
State Sen. Patricia Miller says she is not opposed to the testing itself, but doesn't think it should be required by state law.
"The concern is, 'Will women who know they're using drugs and know they're pregnant not go to a doctor for prenatal care?'" Miller says. "That would be worse than going to a doctor when they're using drugs."
But some mothers want lawmakers to take this idea and run with it.
Stephanie Butler, mom of a one-year-old boy, says she's completely behind a state-required drug test.
"That's somebody else's life," Butler says. "I'm just shocked at how many people smoke and do drugs and take their comfort over somebody else's. It's just — it's very selfish."
Gorzkiewicz says all she can do is hold these babies and love them.
"They cry, and all they want you to is just hold them really tight and just show them the love."
Many hospitals in the Cincinnati tri-state area started requiring drug tests for all of their pregnant patients back in July.
State Sen. Miller says the next step here in Indiana is to get input from medical experts.