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PA Lawmaker Proposes Drug Testing Potential Abuse Victims, Draws Condemnation

HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) -- A Democratic state representative is circulating a proposal that has prompted some concern from domestic violence advocates.

Representative Kevin Haggerty's measure would require drug and alcohol tests for certain people who file for Protection from Abuse orders.

The bill isn't introduced yet. But in a memo seeking co-sponsors, the Lackawanna County Democrat said he thinks PFA filers should be drug tested if there's not "substantive" evidence of abuse--claiming a "growing number of PFA petitions are filed under false pretense."

He cited an article showing 16 percent of PFAs filed in Delaware don't find abuse.

Julie Bancroft said her group -- the Coalition Against Domestic Violence -- was immediately concerned, and quickly sent a letter to House members urging them not to support the bill.

"The memo suggests that if there's drug or alcohol use that somehow negates the reality of abuse, and that's just not the case," Bancroft said.

Haggerty didn't provide a comment on the contents of the bill or his reasons for drafting it. But he did say he thinks the Coalition Against Domestic Violence misunderstood it.

He shared a letter he circulated to House members in response to the coalition, which reiterated that if a person is sober or has evidence of abuse, he wants them to be able to file.

Bancroft said that makes no difference.

"Many times, victims of domestic violence turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism, and it's also a way that abusers continue to manipulate their victims by preventing paths to sobriety," she said. "It's really troubling in a number of ways."

Haggerty has his own experience with PFAs.

Last year, his now-ex-wife was granted a temporary protection order after saying he hit herwith a water bottle hard enough to numb her face and cause short-term hearing loss.

She ultimately didn't press charges.

Haggerty is not seeking reelection.