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Supreme Court Strikes Down Drug Testing Pregnant WomenAired March 21, 2001 - 10:21 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: The Supreme Court has ruled this morning in a case about drug tests of pregnant women without their consent. This strikes down a practice by a hospital that intended to prevent those women from hurting their fetuses by using crack cocaine. This was a very controversial episode.
Let's turn to Jeanne Meserve, in Washington, who's been following the Supreme Court's action.
Jeanne, good morning, again.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Stephen.
The Supreme Court has ruled in the case of Ferguson v. City of Charleston. It says that hospitals cannot test women for drugs against their consent and then turn those tests over to the police. They said this constituted unreasonable search. Their vote was 6-3.
Charles Bierbauer took a look at the issues involved in this particular case.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An ultrasound can tell a mother a lot about her fetus. A decade ago, the Medical University of South Carolina told Charleston police a lot about some of its patients: pregnant women whose hospital urine tests showed cocaine use.
Women who tested positive -- Paula Hale was one -- faced a choice: drug treatment or jail.
PAULA HALE: After birth, I got arrested. After birth, I went through trauma because of the statute that was implemented at the time.
BIERBAUER: The hospital says it adopted the policy after seeing a rise in cocaine use.
CHARLES CONDIN, SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The object of the policy has never been, and is not, now maternal prosecution. The object is fetal protection.
BIERBAUER: Hundreds of women were tested and 30 arrested. Ten sued the city.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doctors were using the confidentiality of the physician-patient relationship against you and thereby enabling themselves to act for the police to collect evidence of a crime.
MESERVE: Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court in his decision. He said, while the ultimate goal of the program may well have been to get the women in question into substance abuse treatment and off of drugs, the immediate objective of the searches was to generate evidence for law enforcement purposes in order to reach that goal.
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