This case is being closely watched by both sides of the abortion debate: A federal legal precedent favoring fetus rights over those of the mother could have sweeping ramifications for women's reproductive health rights. If the Court decides the hospital did, in fact, have a right to test the pregnant women for drugs without their consent, the Justices are essentially affirming the position of the South Carolina legislature: A fetus is a child under the state's child abuse laws, and so the law is necessary to protect against child abuse. High courts in several other states have struck down similar drug-test policies, ruling against the idea that a fetus is a child. As always, no one wants to guess what the Supreme Court might decide, but according to TIME senior writer Adam Cohen, "there has been a long trend on the part of this Court to cut back on Fourth Amendment rights."
Whose rights come first: A pregnant woman's or those of the fetus she is carrying? The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will review a case delineating precisely that dilemma. In 1985, a South Carolina hospital decided it would take any necessary measures to ensure the health of an unborn child including running a drug test on the mother, and reporting those results to the police. Women whose tests were positive could choose to be arrested for providing drugs to a minor or undergo drug addiction treatment. Now, the Court will decide the merit of a case brought in 1993 by 10 women who claimed the drug tests violated their Fourth Amendment protection against "unreasonable searches."