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Indiana attorney general suggests drug testing pregnant women

A suggestion that pregnant women should pass a drug test from Indiana is sparking debate around the United States.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that if moms were allowed to be drug tested, their may be less "drug-affected births," CBS affiliate WSBT in South Bend, Indiana.

This in turn could mean less health care costs for the state caring for these children. Zoeller said Indiana hospitals spent about $30 million in 2011 to treat neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of problems that can happen when a newborn is exposed to illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother's womb.

Symptoms vary depending on which drug the mother abused, and range from blotchy skin coloring to diarrhea to excessive or high pitched crying. Babies can have hyperactive reflexes, fever, excessive sucking, increased muscle tone, irritability, poor feeding and rapid breathing. They may also experience seizures, sleep problems, slow weight gain, stuffy noses, sneezing, sweating, tremors or vomiting.

The syndrome is similar to one experienced by infants whose mothers drank alcohol while pregnant.

Babies can be treated, but need special attention because many often have problems calming down. Babies may also need medication to treat withdrawal symptoms, which can include morphine or methadone.

A 2012 study in JAMA found the number of newborns showing signs of opiate drug withdrawal astripled over the past decadedue to a surge in pregnant women using drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin and heroin.

Vickie Gorzkiewicz, a volunteer at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. who cares for newborns, has worked with some infants whose mothers took illegal drugs while pregnant.

"The cry is different. They just -- it's a cry, it's not a normal cry. They're going through withdrawal and they don't know how to deal with it," she explained.

However, some people are taking issue with the suggestion and don't want it to become enacted as legislation. An online petition against Zoeller's has already received more than 3,400 signature across the country.

Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Ind.) does not think that drug testing should be required by state law, but she isn't against them either.

"The concern is, will women who know they're using drugs and know they're pregnant not go to a doctor for prenatal care? And that would be worse than going to a doctor when they're using drugs," she said to WSBT.

Zoeller said in statement to WSBT that he does not support requiring drug tests and is looking at other avenues to reduce drug-affected births. A spokesperson also added to that the suggestion was never a recommendation or a proposal brought to legislature, and drug testing was never meant to be tied to benefits.

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