National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) and the ACLU of Illinois filed a charge against St. Alexius Medical Center for a discriminatory, non-consensual drug test against a first-time mother, Ms. F., before she went into labor. It is the first charge of its kind in Illinois.
Ms. F. arrived at the hospital on April 4, 2021, at 34 weeks pregnant when her blood pressure rose due to preeclampsia. St. Alexius staff drew Ms. F.’s blood and gathered her urine, which she assumed was for reasons related to her preeclampsia. No one ever informed her of, nor asked her permission for, a drug test. There is no medical justification for drug testing all perinatal patients, and the practice is widely opposed by leading medical organizations.
Ms. F. repeatedly told staff that the only possible explanation for her false positive test was the poppy seed cake that she had eaten for an Easter celebration before entering the hospital. Yet doctors and nurses brushed off her explanation and whispered stigmatizing comments about her positive test result while preparing her for cesarean surgery on April 6, 2021. She cried out of fear and confusion, but her tears were ignored by the medical staff.
Though premature, her baby was born healthy and had no symptoms of withdrawal.. Nevertheless, hospital staff told Ms. F. that they were reporting the matter to DCFS.
Ultimately, DCFS subjected Ms. F. and her husband to a “safety plan,” requiring them to have someone else in the home with Ms. F. and the baby at all times. Because they did not have a family member who could help, the family was forced to pay a stranger to be in their home for hours when the husband was away at work. During this time, a DCFS agent and another state employee came regularly to Ms. F.’s home to check in on her and the baby.
A charge of discrimination was filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights on Ms. F.’s behalf. The charge alleges that Saint Alexius’s practice of drug testing pregnant women without their knowledge or consent and in the absence of a medical justification discriminated against Ms. F. on the basis of sex and pregnancy.