Wisconsin Likes Jailing Pregnant Ladies Too, For The Children

Looks like Wisconsin is the latest state to get in on the hot new "Throw Pregnant Women in Jail" trend. Motivated in equal parts by the "pro-life" movement and plain old misogyny -- but we repeat ourselves -- prosecutors in Alabama and Texas have been jailing pregnant women who have tested positive for drug use. This is ostensibly for the sake of the fetus, because any woman who'd take drugs while pregnant is obviously a child abuser, but the women treated to the states' tender mercies often end up getting lousy prenatal care in prison, not to mention their diminished job prospects once the babby is born and mom has a criminal record. And now Wisconsin is getting in on the trend, too.

Katie McDonough, writing in Salon, brings us the instructive tale of Tamara Loertscher, a woman who admitted to her doctor when she went in for a pregnancy test that she had been using marijuana and meth, but that she had stopped the drugs as soon as she thought she might be pregnant:

It didn’t matter. Loertscher lives in Wisconsin, and a law there allows the state to arrest, detain and incarcerate pregnant women found to be using drugs, or, in Loertscher’s case, pregnant women who have used drugs in the past.

Hospital workers reported her, and a process was set in motion. The state accused her of child abuse and appointed her fetus a lawyer. (This is a familiar pattern.) She was ordered into an in-patient treatment facility, despite the fact that she was no longer using drugs and had voluntarily sought medical care. She refused, and was soon incarcerated.

And Justice was done! With the help of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Loertscher is bringing a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning the Wisconsin law and others like it. It turns out that, instead of protecting the precious fetuses from the uncaring criminal women who host them, laws like Wisconsin's have mostly just driven pregnant women with a history of drug use away from seeking prenatal care:

In 2011, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that “incarceration and threat of incarceration have proved to be ineffective in reducing the incidence of alcohol or drug abuse” and that mandated testing and reporting lead women to avoid prenatal care that “greatly reduces the negative effects of substance abuse during pregnancy.”

Yeah, but if you aren't punishing drug-using moms, you're just letting them get away with it, even though that may result in healthier babbies. Happily, the good fetus-protectors of Wisconsin knew just how to treat Tamara Loertscher:

Loertscher recalled being denied prenatal care and subjected to harassment and abuse while incarcerated. In one incident, she said jail officials ordered her to submit to a pregnancy test. When she protested that she was incarcerated precisely because the state already knew she was pregnant, she was threatened with tasing and put into solitary confinement. She said the state refused to let her see her own doctor, and the jail officials were callous and dismissive of her concerns about her pregnancy. “I had concerns because of all the stress,” she said during a call last week with reporters. “This was my first pregnancy and I didn’t know what to expect. They wouldn’t allow me to see the doctor.”

Guess "getting thrown in jail for trying to have a healthy pregnancy" isn't a chapter in the ever-popular What To Expect When You're Expecting. But maybe it should be.

If the criminal charges against her hold, Loertscher is unlikely to find a job as a nursing assistant. Then again, if she wanted a good life for her child, she never should have done those drugs that she stopped doing as soon as she thought she was pregnant.


Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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