Drug testing for pregnant welfare women?

February 21, 2008 8:44:17 PM PST
A disabled high school boy from Southern California wants all pregnant women on welfare to be tested for drugs. His mother wasn't and that's why he has trouble walking today. It's called R.J.'s Law and it's facing some legal hurdles.

"R.J. was born two pounds, two ounces," says Assemblyman John Benoit, (R) Bermuda Dunes.

Sixteen-year-old R.J. Feild of Riverside has overcome so much. He wrote in a contest essay about being a kid born with cerebral palsy because his drug-addicted, welfare mother wouldn't stop using during her pregnancy.

"Those receiving these monies do not have to be drug free. Why? In order to receive any government assistance, drug screening should be required," says Feild, a contest winner.

Assemblyman Benoit, who sponsored the 'There Ought To Be A Law' contest, was appalled to hear R.J. was born with traces of heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, alcohol and cocaine in his system -- drugs his biological mother used while on welfare.

"His mother was taking money that the state gave her and was buying drugs," says Assemblyman Benoit.

Benoit dubbed R.J. the contest winner, writing a proposed state law requiring welfare moms to submit to a random drug test. Positive results mean they have to go to rehab or lose their benefits.

The Inland Empire Republican allowed R.J. to submit the bill, which is aimed at preventing more cases like his.

"Anybody that can see what I've been going through, what I have to go through, is a good thing," says Feild.

But if you think this proposal is a shoo-in, it does have opposition. Besides the financial burden of drug tests, counties already have the ability to order a test for recipients who are suspected of drug use.

"The world has changed since what happened to him occurred. We now have a welfare system that requires people to go to work. We do screen people for substance abuse," says Mike Herald of Western Center on Law & Poverty.

R.J.'s idea started because his adopted family had to cancel an outing to a theme park so his dad could go for a pre-employment drug test for a new job. Then he wondered why his biological mother didn't have to go through the same scrutiny.