Infants with Prenatal Substance Exposure

IPSElaw presents a 50-state analysis of law pertaining to prenatal substance exposure.  It is designed particularly for individuals conducting biomedical and behavioral research involving pregnant women and newborns.  

This website is not intended to serve as legal advice!  Rather, it can help researchers understand the law and design their research to minimize legal risks to participants and researchers.  Law pertaining to prenatal substance exposure is changing rapidly.  The research and analysis presented here was conducted by law and bioethics experts on the Promoting Resilience Team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research between December of 2018 and March of 2021.  The site will be updated periodically.

This site can be used to understand and compare state’s law pertaining to substance use during pregnancy and the birth of a substance-exposed child. It is organized around a map of the U.S. To compare states, use the “explore” function to select a legal question. In response, the map will populate with a categorical “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” answer for all states and the District of Columbia. To learn more about a particular state, select and click on that state for a full legal analysis and links to relevant statutes, regulations, case law, and agency policies.

State laws do not reflect a unified or consistent notion of “prenatal substance exposure.”  Instead, laws specify types of evidence that may or must be reported to state authorities who may investigate prenatal substance exposure as possible child abuse or neglect.  Laws also specify the timing of reports and the persons who may or must report.  The questions on this site reflect a timeline, from law that applies during pregnancy to law that applies after a child is born.  The questions also make distinctions based on the major types of evidence that trigger reports of possible child abuse or neglect in different state’s laws, such evidence includes (but is not limited to) a pregnant person’s positive toxicology, a newborn’s positive toxicology, or a newborn’s diagnosis as substance-exposed or substance-affected (e.g., diagnosis of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome or neonatal abstinence syndrome). 

This project is a critical, early step in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Healthy Brain and Child Development Study (HBCD).  This nationwide, longitudinal study aims to enroll approximately 10,000 pregnant women and to follow the health of both mothers and children for ten years.  One of HBCD’s outcomes will be a better understanding of the impacts on child development of prenatal substance exposure, particularly exposure to opioids. 

We thank the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other NIH Institutes for funding: grant # R34 DA050263-01.