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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Law Allows Authorities to Detain Pregnant Women

Across the country there are many women dealing with the disease of addiction while they are pregnant. Despite boatloads of research that proves that using any form of mind altering substance while pregnant can be harmful to the fetus, many women are unable to stop using without help. In a number of states there are programs available to assist expectant mothers with their addiction, although in most cases it is up to the mother to decide if she wants help.

In Wisconsin, there exists a controversial law which allows authorities to detain pregnant women suspected of drug and alcohol abuse, and force treatment upon them, reports the fix. The 16-year old Wisconsin “fetal protection” law came into being because of the nationwide scare over so-called “crack babies” and “cocaine moms.”

The law which was passed with overwhelming support in the State Assembly and Senate, allows authorities to detain a pregnant women if, as the law states, there is a “substantial risk” to the fetus because the mother “habitually lacks self-control” with substance use, according to the article. Mothers can be forced into treatment for being honest with their doctor about past drug use.

One such mother, Tammy Loertscher, was detained because she refused to go to treatment and was found in contempt of the court. Loertscher is challenging the law and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women is filing a lawsuit over the law’s constitutionality. In July, Loertscher told a physician at Eau Claire’s Mayo Clinic Hospital that she had used marijuana and methamphetamine in the past, but had stopped when she learned of her pregnancy.

“This law allows police, courts and child welfare authorities to seize control of pregnant women who are using or even admit to past use of alcohol or controlled substances,” said Sara Ainsworth, director of legal advocacy for NAPW. “This law authorizes a vast array of coercive, punitive actions against pregnant women who are not actually using any substances at all but have simply been honest with their doctors about past drug use.”

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