NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)New York City’s Commission on Human Rights is launching an investigation into three private hospitals.

It comes after years of complaints alleging Black and brown mothers and newborns are disproportionately subjected to drug testing, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Monday.

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After childbirth, mothers anticipate getting to hold their newborns back in the hospital room.

But for some, that doesn’t always happen.

“The baby is supposed to come to them and they’ll say, well, the baby has been placed on hold,” said Chanel Porchia-Albert, founder and CEO of Ancient Song Doula Services.

Porchia-Albert said it’s a reality for half of her clients, especially in the Bronx, because they tested positive for drugs, often times marijuana.

“This was something that was done without their consent, so where is upholding their bodily autonomy?” Porchia-Albert said.


The testing and separation are meant to protect the newborn. But on Monday, the New York City Commission on Human Rights launched an investigation into Montefiore, Mount Sinai and New York-Presbyterian hospitals’ procedures that determines who gets tested.

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“The concern is that disproportionately Black and Latinx parents are being drug tested either with consent or without,” said Dana Sussman, the HRC’s deputy commissioner.

While not required, often times the mothers are referred to child protective services, who launch cases that could lead to children being removed from their homes.

“The message is that Black and Latinx families are being either held to a different standard or believed to be inherently less qualified,” Sussman said.

Despite data showing comparable drug usage among white people and people of color, maternal health advocates say drug testing is not universal.

When asked about the preferred way to address concerns about the welfare of the child, Porchia-Albert explained, “Instead of criminalizing parents for the choices that they’re making, find ways to be able to support them.”

The hospitals did not respond to CBS2’s request for comment, but will now have to provide data to the city.

If it’s determined disparities exist, the Human Rights Commission can do everything from help hospitals craft new policies to filing a lawsuit.

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