Panel Approves Paragould Senator's Bill Changing Garrett's Law

FEBRUARY 28, 2007 - Posted at 1:22 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A bill changing a law regarding drug tests on new and expectant mothers was approved by a Senate committtee today.

The bill amends Garrett's Law, which was passed by the Legislature in 2005.  The law requires medical professionals to report to the state's child-abuse hot line instances when they suspect a newborn has been affected by the mother's illegal drug use.  It leaves up to medical professionals when to test a mother for drugs.  Garrett's Law was named for a Paragould child whose mother died under alleged similar circumstances.

The bill, filed by Senator Robert Thompson (D-Paragould), will eliminate a requirement of putting a mother's name on a list of child abusers maintained by the state.  Thompson says it will help mothers who seek treatment to avoid the stigma.

However, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas warns the drug testing system may allow doctors to single out mothers based on race for the tests.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)