Feb 11 • 10M

Overly Sensitive Drug Tests Criminalize Childbirth

Hospitals call child protective services on women who ate poppyseed muffins

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Welcome back Chaise Lounge readers! I look forward to speaking with you each Thursday. This week we will take a look at a few big stories including the sexual harassment scandal brewing at Harvard and the criminalization of eating a poppyseed muffin while pregnant. As always, if you like what you read here, please like and share.


Hot off the presses! Senate passes bill outlawing forced arbitration agreements

This afternoon, the Senate approved a bill that ends the practice of forced arbitration for claims of sexual harassment and abuse claims. Introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and supported by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, the bill allows those who have been harassed or abused to directly sue individuals and companies without having to go to arbitration. Forcing those who have been harassed and assaulted to relive the experience through arbitration is retraumatizing and unfair. The bill does not, however, eliminate non-disclosure agreements. That’s a fight for another day.


In education

Harvard drops the ball on sexual harassment

A bombshell sexual harassment lawsuit dropped this week against Harvard University and a tenured professor, John Comaroff. The complaint by three female graduate students outlines how Harvard ignored their reports of sexual harassment and the professor’s retaliation toward students who did report him that took place over many years. The complaint is a disturbing read and it is hard to understand how Harvard never completed a Title IX investigation. The university completed its own investigation once the harassment was reported in the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, but concluded that the professor was not to blame. As part of the report, the school obtained one of the women’s psychotherapy notes and published them as part of the report, a completely unethical act. This appears to be a situation where power trumps ethics. We will see if the lawsuit changes anything.

Second time is the charm in UCLA sexual harassment suit

Kristen Glasgow, a former graduate student at UCLA, filed a Title IX complaint against Professor Gabriel Piterberg which was ignored. Then, in 2015, she sued the university and received $110,00 and monetary support for her fellowship, but Piterberg remained on the faculty. While she appreciated the funds, Glasgow wanted Piterberg punished. When a new Title IX director was hired in 2016, Glasgow filed a new complaint, and this time she won. UCLA announced that Piterberg had violated their sexual harassment policies and would be fired and unable to work in the UC system again or obtain any of its privileges. This is a milestone win for those using the Title IX system to out harassers and has them face the consequences of that harassment. Kudos to Ms. Glasgow for being willing to go through the tough process in the interest of making an example of Mr. Piterberg. Are you listening, Harvard?

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In health

Congresswomen propose bill for FEMA support of breastfeeding during disasters

Representatives Lauren Underwood and Tammy Duckworth have proposed the DEMAND bill which directs FEMA to provide breast milk pumps and other lactation supports as part of their emergency services during disasters. Because water supplies are sometimes damaged or cut off during disasters, baby formula may be difficult or impossible to use. Those who are already breastfeeding may lose access to their personal pumps during a disaster. FEMA should consider the needs of new mothers and their babies as paramount when they plan for disaster relief.

Pregnant women are subjected to inaccurate, non-consensual drug testing leading to separation from their newborns

Two women are suing Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown, New York for giving them non-consensual drug tests and then reporting their false-positive results to Child Protective Services (CPS). The women were prevented from breastfeeding their babies for days and their homes were searched by CPS while they were in the hospital. The babies tested negative. Both women had consumed products containing poppy seeds shortly before going to the hospital. The hospital was using urine screening tests that are sensitive to poppy seeds. Additionally, the hospital used opiate testing thresholds far lower than the levels the federal government uses for workplace testing. The federal government raised its threshold more than 20 years ago because of false positives. The women asked to be retested, but the hospitals waited two to three days before doing so leading to incredible stress on these women and their newborns. And these two women are not the only victims of hospitals using outdated tests or standards. A quick Google search turns up many similar cases.

As we enter a political period where the policing of women’s behavior and reproductive activity is heightened, more and more women will face questions about their behavior in the interest of “the children". And you can bet that those most likely to get caught in this web will be those who have the least resources. When women are afraid to access healthcare because they are afraid of being accused of doing something wrong, we end up with an even higher maternal mortality rate.

A recent paper in the Maternal and Child Health Journal discusses the issue in depth concluding that:

This double marginalization of pregnant patients limits their autonomy and unduly exposes them to the criminal-legal system. Given disparities in prenatal drug screening, Black pregnant patients are at greater risk of such double-jeopardy.

Given that the United States is already one of the worst developed countries for maternal mortality, the last thing we need to be doing is discouraging pregnant people from accessing health care.


In Economics

Adidas unveils daring advertisement

If you are a regular reader of this newsletter, then you may recall a previous article discussing the bans that Facebook has put on advertisements for women’s health products. Any mention of the word “vagina” or products that look suspect to their algorithms or minders are blocked. Adidas shared the advertisement below on Wednesday on Twitter to a lot of differing opinions. Some thought it indecent while others reveled in the body positivity messaging. To me, it is a clinical series of photos, and I see nothing wrong with it, although I am not sure it will sell the sports bras. Some suggested that it would have been better to put the bras on the bodies, but I imagine that would have defeated the purpose of showing the wide variety of breast shapes. I imagine it depends on the objective of the ad. What do you think?

Misogynist of the week

This tweet, by Representative Joyce Beatty, a Black Congresswoman took off this week. It made many of us wonder why this behavior is present in Congress at all. If anyone else behaved this way at work, they would be reprimanded or fired. It was only after the Congressional Black Caucus called a press conference on the matter that Representative Rogers offered the following tweet. He does not even acknowledge poking her in the back. Why don’t members of Congress have the same employment protections as the rest of the professional world?


What I’m reading

Jennifer Senior has a new piece in The Atlantic entitled “It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart”. In the article, she focuses on the many ways that friendships do and do not work and their importance to us, especially in midlife. I am looking forward to finishing it. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read it!


Just for fun

Watching this made me smile so hard and gave me goosebumps at the same time. Enjoy!

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