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.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .