Entries in Pennsylvania (3)


Mother Loses Custody of Infant over Poppy Seeds?

Zedcor Wholly Owned/Thinkstock(NEW CASTLE, Pa.) -- Eileen Bower of Pennsylvania is suing the Lawrence County Department of Children and Youth Services for taking custody of her newborn son after she tested positive for opiates, a result -- her lawyer says -- of her eating poppy seeds.

Stanley T. Booker, Bower's attorney, told ABC News that Bower gave birth to her son on July 13, 2009.  A routine blood test performed by Jameson Hospital uncovered the presence of opiates in her system.

"They contacted Lawrence County Children and Youth Services and got a court order to take custody of her child on July 15," Booker said.  Bower regained custody of her child 75 days later.

But before giving birth, Bower ate a salad with dressing that contained poppy seeds, which Booker believes led to the positive test result.

"There were only trace amounts of opiates -- they couldn't even put a range on the amount," Booker explained.

After the initial blood test, the hospital sent the blood to an outside laboratory to confirm the result, which came back the same.

"But even before the confirmatory test results, they contacted CYS and there was an order to take custody," Booker said.

Neither Jameson Hospital nor the Department of Children and Youth Services returned phone calls from ABC News, but according to the American Civil Liberties Union's web site, the hospital's policy is to perform drug tests on all new mothers and submit positive results to the Department of Children and Youth Services.

Both Jameson Hospital and the county's child protection agency are involved in a nearly identical case involving another woman whose child was taken as a result of a positive drug test.  Elizabeth Mort said she ate an everything bagel with poppy seeds on it shortly before she gave birth to her daughter.  She filed her lawsuit last October.

Toxicologists said that if trace amounts of opiates were found in Bower's blood, they didn't necessarily come from poppy seeds.

"It depends on the nature of the hospital's test, but when it comes to poppy seeds, you would have to eat a lot more than salad dressing to get a positive presumptive test," said Chip Walls, director of the Forensic Toxicology Laboratory at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

"A positive blood test is more than likely not from consuming poppy seeds, but it's not out of the question," said Bruce Goldberger, director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville.

Both experts emphasized that it didn't mean there was an illegal drug present, either.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Pennsylvania Law Allows Birth Certificates for Stillborns

Comstock/Thinkstock(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- Come Sept. 5, 2011, Pennsylvania will become the 31st state to offer the birth certificates for stillborns upon request.

The push for states to offer Certificates of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth started in Arizona in 1999 with Joanne Cacciatore, a trauma and grief counselor in Phoenix and mother of Cheyenne, who died about 15 minutes before she was born.

"No one else should have to go through what I felt when I called the office of records and they told me I didn't have a baby," said Cacciatore, who helped lobby for the Pennsylvania bill. "We need to extend the same compassion to women who experience the death of a baby to families who experience the death of a teenager."

A stillbirth, Cacciatore said, is no less tragic than any other death.

"Very few things are more traumatic than the experience of birth and death at the same time," she said.  "A mother then goes home to an empty room, breast milk, postpartum hormones and people's comments. It's a very biologically, socially, and emotionally traumatic experience for women."

Cacciatore said the birth certificate is deeply symbolic; much like a marriage certificate is for gay couples.  She also hopes it will incite a change in culture when it comes to talking about stillbirth.

"When people ask me how many children I have, I'll say I have four who walk and one who soars," she said. "The love of a parent transcends death.  Just because she died at birth doesn't make her any less valuable."

But the battle for birth certificates was fraught with opposition, with abortion rights groups arguing they could be used as fodder by anti-abortion activists.  However, the law, which makes the certificate available upon request following non-elective terminations, does not seek to define when life begins.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nurse Visits to Low-Income Mothers Improve Child Development, Study Shows

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- A program providing home visitation by nurses to low-income first-time mothers in the two years following the birth of their child is helping to reduce "rapid second pregnancies," according to a study by PolicyLab at The Philadelphia Children's Hospital. 

The study, which was published Monday in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, reviewed clients living in 17 urban and six rural areas of Pennsylvania where the program was implemented between 2000 and 2007. 

The study showed no immediate effects in the program's early years, however, program participants whose first children were born after 2003 had fewer second pregnancies.  Study leaders said the reduction in rapid second pregnancies was "two-fold" in rural areas compared to urban locations.

"The continued effectiveness of the program following implementation was encouraging, but particularly striking were the strong effects among young rural mothers," said study leader David Rubin, M.D., M.S.C.E., a pediatric researcher at Children's Hospital.

The project, supported by a grant from Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare, paired nurses with low-income families "to improve the child's health and development" and lower the family's dependence on federal assistance programs such as welfare.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio