In late April 2017, a federal court struck down a Wisconsin state law authorizing the detention, forced treatment, and incarceration of pregnant women as unconstitutional. The law allowed the state to seize control of women, detain them in jail or other locked facilities, and force them to submit to unconsented to and inappropriate treatment if they were pregnant and used – or even disclosed past use of – any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance.
Hundreds of Wisconsin women have been reported and investigated under this law. Because of this ruling, Wisconsin women now have relief from the constant fear that voluntarily seeking prenatal care could result in being hauled into court, detained, forced to submit to inappropriate treatment or jailed.
The court’s ruling was based on extensive evidence, including the opinions of renowned medical experts, that voluntary, confidential health care is the most effective way to promote healthy mothers and babies.
Wisconsin’s Attorney General disagreed with the court’s decision and plans to pursue an appeal. Unfortunately, his public statement on 18 May 2017 was filled with inaccuracies, rather than a responsible, medically supported approach to maternal and child health care.
The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) all have policies emphasizing that criminal sanctions and other punishment are not appropriate for pregnant women who use or have used alcohol or other substances… (ACOG Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, Committee Opinion 473, Substance Abuse Reporting and Pregnancy: The Role of the Obstetrician-Gynecologist (2011, reaffirmed 2014)).
Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said “This law was passed despite the objection of the Wisconsin medical community. Giving state authorities the power to lock up pregnant women in “treatment” that might not be needed or in county jails with no prenatal care might advance political careers but it certainly does not protect maternal or child health.”
National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the NYU School of Law Reproductive Justice Clinic, and the Perkins Coie law firm in Madison, Wisconsin represent plaintiff Tamara Loertscher, who sued the State of Wisconsin and Taylor County after government officials transformed her efforts to obtain medical care into the basis for forced, unnecessary treatment and then incarceration.
SOURCE: National Advocates for Pregnant Women Blog, 18 May 2017