Two new New Jersey mothers have filed lawsuits against two hospitals about their respective positive drug tests just before they delivered their babies.

They blame the poppy seeds on their bagels for the results.

Hackensack University Medical Center and Virtua Voorhees Hospital routinely take urine and blood samples when women are admitted before birth. The women identified only as Kaitlin K. and Kate L. said in their lawsuits said their tests were done without their knowledge or informed consent.

The positive result was reported to the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency for possible abuse or neglect, setting up months of trauma for the new mothers, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which is representing both women.

In their lawsuits, Kaitin and Kate say their tests came back positive because of the bagels they ate for breakfast before checking into their respective hospitals.

According to the lawsuit, Kaitlin had a poppy seed bagel for breakfast and thought her water broke while getting ready to take her son to school. Kate's craving during her pregnancy was "everything" bagels, which include poppy seeds.

Hackensack University Medical Center
Hackensack University Medical Center (Rothman Orthopaedic Institute)

Positive test leads to anxiety

The tests led to interviews with child protective service agents and a delay in bringing their newborns home. It also created mistrust of the hospitals they felt were judging them and making them feel untrustworthy.

Kate was "mortified" to have to urinate into a cup for a second test in front of a state case worker, according to the lawsuit. Kaitlin was fearful that her child would be taken away from her.

“No one should be subjected to unnecessary and nonconsensual drug tests. Our clients are sending a clear message to hospitals that these testing and reporting policies are unacceptable,” ACLU-NJ staff attorney Molly Linhorst said in a statement. “Discriminatory testing policies like these upend what should be a time of joy for families, and so often subject them to further trauma and unwarranted investigation by the state.”

There is no state requirement for hospitals to administer a drug test to pregnant women, the New Jersey Addiction Intervention said on its website. Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, however, mandates hosptials notify child protective services when a newborn has been "affected by illegal substance abuse," according to the group.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that drug use during pregnancy cannot be prosecuted and a positive drug test does not establish neglect.

Virtua Hospital Voorhees
Virtua Hospital Voorhees (Virtua Health System)

Drug tests at birth not supported

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is against pregnant women being given a drug test before delivery in part because of the devastating legal consequences that a positive test can present, according to ACLU-NJ.

"Racial bias also permeates drug testing and reporting decisions; healthcare professionals are more likely to administer drug tests on pregnant Black women and their babies," ACLU-NJ said.

The complaints seek a full investigation of the claims and a finding of probable cause that unlawful discrimination occurred.

Both Hackensack University Medical Center and Virtua Health told New Jersey 101.5 they would not comment on pending litigation.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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