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New York's Top Court Says Treatment Programs May Not Exclude Pregnant Women


June 1993

Drug treatment programs may not exclude pregnant women, the New York Court of Appeals ruled May 6 (Kevin Sack, "Top Court Rules Drug Treatment Programs May Not Exclude Pregnant Women," New York Times, 5/8/93, B2).

The unanimous ruling was the first of its kind by a top court in any state, attorneys in the case said. The Court of Appeals ruling overturned a lower court's ruling in a 1989 case brought by two anonymous women against North General Hospital in Harlem. Hospital policy excludes from treatment all pregnant women on grounds that it lacks equipment to treat them safely, has no obstetricians and is not licensed to render obstetric care.

The ruling did not say North General Hospital acted illegally, leaving that to a trial court. It also stipulated that the hospital could legitimately exclude pregnant women if it could demonstrate that "no pregnant woman, regardless of the state of her general health, the stage of her pregnancy, or the severity of her addictions, can be treated safely" or that it is impossible to determine prior to admission if the woman might need immediate, on-site obstetric services.