Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

October-04-13

Federal Suit Challenges Pregnant Woman's Arrest Under Personhood-Like Law

Attorneys for Wisconsin woman Alicia Beltran filed a petition in federal court this week seeking her immediate release from state custody. The suit challenges the constitutionality of a 1997 state law that gives Wisconsin courts jurisdiction over any pregnant woman who "habitually lacks self-control" in using alcohol or drugs "to a severe degree" such that the physical health of her "unborn child" will be "seriously affected or endangered."

Beltran was arrested after she sought early prenatal care and told health care workers about her prior use of painkillers and her attempts to stop use on her own. Instead of receiving support, she was arrested in July 2013, when she was only 15 weeks pregnant. Beltran was brought to court in shackles for her initial hearing, and without a right to counsel, she had no attorney for her initial hearing--even though an attorney had been appointed to represent her fetus. Without hearing any testimony from a medical expert, the court ordered Beltran to be detained at an inpatient drug treatment program two hours from her home.

The petition argues that there have been numerous violations of constitutional rights, including the right to physical liberty, the right to due process notice, and privacy in medical decision-making, among several others. This is the first constitutional challenge to such a law. Statements from medical experts supporting the petition say the arrest and detention of Beltran actually increases risk to the pregnancy and has no medical justification.

Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and co-counsel for the case, said, "This kind of dangerous, authoritarian state-action, is exactly what happens when laws give police officers and other state actors the authority to treat fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as if they are already completely separate from the pregnant woman."

Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin have similar laws allowing the detention of pregnant women alleged to have used alcohol or drugs.

Media Resources: Wisconsin Legislative Documents; RH Reality Check 10/3/13; National Advocates for Pregnant Women Press Release 10/2/13


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

9/12/2014 Violence Against Women Act Turns 20 - Saturday will be the 20th Anniversary of the groundbreaking federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Passed in 1994, VAWA was the first piece of federal legislation to specifically address domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes and to provide federal funding to improve local response to violence against women, including training and resources for law enforcement and judges. President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued a proclamation commemorating the VAWA anniversary. . . .
 
9/12/2014 Indiana Woman Charged With Feticide For Premature Delivery - An Indiana woman has been charged with feticide after she delivered prematurely and sought hospital treatment. Purvi Patel, 33, sought help at an emergency room for vaginal bleeding where it was discovered that she had delivered prematurely at home. . . .
 
9/11/2014 Missouri Legislators Pass 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period Law - Missouri legislators voted late last night to triple the state's current 24-hour waiting period to 72 hours, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Governor Jay Nixon previously vetoed the bill in July, calling it "extreme and disrespectful." Missouri's House voted 117-44 to override the veto, and then the Senate used a procedural move to stop a Democratic filibuster of the bill and vote 23-7 to complete the veto override Wednesday. "The only purpose of a 72-hour waiting period is to attempt to punish, shame, and demean women who have arrived at a personal decision that politicians happen to disagree with," said the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement. . . .