Poppy seed peril: eat a bagel, lose your baby.

Author:Sullum, Jacob

ELIZABETH MORT and Alex Rodriguez, a young Pennsylvania couple, had been home from the hospital for barely a day when caseworkers from Lawrence County Children and Youth Services, accompanied by a police officer, came to take their newborn baby. The officials kept the child for five days before admitting they had made a mistake--all because of a poppy seed bagel.

Mort ate the bagel two hours before she was admitted to New Castle's Jameson Hospital, where her daughter, Isabella, was born on April 27. She did not realize that her snack could trigger a positive urinalysis result for opiates or that the hospital has a policy of reporting such results to the county. The county, in turn, has a policy of automatically seizing babies from mothers who test positive for illegal drugs, without investigating further to see whether the children are actually in danger of abuse or neglect.

In a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Mort and Rodriguez at the end of October, the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that the baby-snatching collaboration between Lawrence County and Jameson Hospital (actual motto: "there's no place like home") is a conspiracy to deprive parents of their 14th Amendment rights. The ACLU noted that the cutoff level the hospital uses for...

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