Advocates for pregnant women are raising their voices over what they say is growing suspicion over substance abuse—suspicion that is often unfair. At Cosmopolitan.com, Ada Calhoun recounts the story of one California mother's nightmare: When Tiffany Langwell, 38, gave birth to a daughter, she left the hospital earlier than doctors recommended. The next day, she found Child Protective Services at her door; hospital workers had alerted officials that Langwell, her fiancé, and his mother showed shakiness that could signal substance abuse, while Langwell had pill bottles (they were iron supplements, she says). An early test was inconclusive—apparently because Langwell's saliva was particularly thick. That "may have had something to do with the fact that I had just given birth and it was 110 degrees," she notes.
CPS came back with a warrant and took the baby away, first to the hospital, where "they tried eight times to catheterize my one-day-old," the father notes. Then the newborn was put in foster care for a week. "I thought it was some horrible joke. You are guilty until you prove your innocence," Langwell says. After a hair-follicle drug test came up clean, the baby was finally returned to Langwell. The case—which activists say isn't isolated—occurred against a background of what an advocate calls "extremely problematic 'If you test positive for a drug, we're going to take the baby' cases." Poor families are often unfairly suspected, advocates say. Fear of arrest is prompting some pregnant women to avoid getting the care they need in hospitals, notes Nancy Redd in an interview with Calhoun, who has previously written on the topic. (Parents raised questions earlier this year when a mother was arrested for leaving her child in the park while she worked.)