new castle, pa.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday on behalf of a New Castle couple whose newborn daughter was seized by a county agency.
The civil-liberties organization announced the court action on its website.
The baby was seized after her birth in April by Lawrence County Children and Youth Services after Jameson Hospital reported the mother, Elizabeth Mort, tested positive for opiates, the organization said.
Mort’s drug test was positive because she had eaten a poppy-seed bagel before giving birth, the ACLU says.
The baby, named Isabella, was kept from Mort and her fianc , Alex Rodriguez, for five days, the ACLU said.
Its suit alleges Jameson uses a much lower threshhold for a positive drug screening than federal guidelines, leading to a higher rate of false positives.
The ACLU says Jameson has a policy of testing all maternity patients for drugs and requires its staff to notify children and youth services of positive results, neither of which is mandated by federal or state laws.
Mort and Rodriguez could not be reached. Mort gave a prepared statement that the ACLU has on its website.
“We decided to file a lawsuit so that Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County Children and Youth Services could not do this to another innocent family,” Mort said. “They need to research and ask questions before they jump to conclusions.”
Lisa Lombardo, Jameson’s director of public relations, said the hospital’s policy is to conduct screenings to provide care to newborns.
“If a positive screen is obtained, we do not take that as final,” she read from a prepared statement. “The sample is sent to a national lab for confirmatory testing.”
“Pennsylvania state law requires health-care providers involved in the delivery or care of an infant identified as affected by illegal substance abuse to immediately report it to the appropriate county agency,” she continued.
“Once the report is communicated, the hospital is not part of any further investigation or decision-making,” she said.
Childen and youth services director Jane Gajda was not available to comment Thursday.