Reproductive Freedom

Wisconsin Woman Seeks Pregnancy Care, Gets Thrown in Jail for Admitting Past Drug Use

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"I was trying to do the right thing to take care of my pregnancy," said mom-to-be Tamara Loertscher. "I was really sick when I went to get help, but I feel like asking for help just made everything worse."

Loertscher, 30, had been using meth before finding out about her pregnancy. But upon realizing she might be pregnant, Loertscher—who did not have health insurance—says she quit using the drug and sought care from Taylor County social services. For her efforts, she was subjected to a temporary custody order requiring her to move into a residential treatment center and, when she refused, jailed for 18 days. 

Loertscher is now challenging the Wisconsin law allowing pregnant women to be jailed or put in protective custody for current or past drug or alcohol use. 

At the Eau Claire Mayo Clinic, where Loertscher was referred by social workers, she received a pregnancy test and a drug test. From the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal:

Social workers asked Loertscher repeatedly to release her medical records to county officials, and said that if she didn't, she would be jailed until she had her baby, which would then be put up for adoption. When Loertscher finally said she wanted to go home, she was told she was the subject of a temporary custody order obtained by Taylor County and could not leave.

The next day, still at the Eau Claire Mayo Clinic, she was taken to a room where Court Commissioner Greg Krug was on speaker phone and told her to sign a petition—as if she was initiating protective action on the unborn child herself. She refused and said she wouldn't answer questions without a lawyer and left the room. The court commissioner deemed that Loertscher had waived her appearance. Taylor County Corporation Counsel Courtney Graff, also on speaker, told a doctor at the Mayo Clinic that breaching Loertscher's confidentiality was not an issue for this type of proceeding and the doctor then discussed Loertscher's conditions and treatment, as well as her past drug use that she admitted to in her initial interview at the clinic.

Krug ordered Loertscher to supply a blood sample, which she refused, and doctors at the clinic released her. But 10 days later, she was ordered into state custody.

On Sept. 14, Loertscher appeared in court without a lawyer. A judge ordered her jailed on contempt for not following the earlier orders. In jail, she was told to provide a urine sample, and when she refused, was put in solitary confinement for 36 hours. She missed prenatal care appointments and claims jail staff said she shouldn't have gotten herself in the position to miss the appointments.

Eventually, a public defender appointed for Loertscher won her release after she agreed to get drug and alcohol testing at her expense and share the results with the county.

All of Loertscher's drug tests have been negative. Nonetheless, the county human services department made an administrative finding against Loertscher for child maltreatment, based on her initial positive drug test. Loertscher is appealing that finding.

She's also brought a federal lawsuit against the Wisconsin attorney general and the state Department of Children and Families. "From our perspective, the entire proceeding was a violation of constitutional rights from start to finish," Loertscher's attorney, Freya Bowen, said. 

In the suit, Loertscher alleges that the Wisconsin statute which allowed her to be locked up is unconstitutional and seeks an injunction against its further use. The law, passed in 1998, allows the state to order pregnant women into protective custody and medical treatment if they're suspected of current or past drug or alcohol use. "Social workers can initiate confidential legal action in children's court," explains the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, and "lawyers get appointed for a woman's fetus." 

Loertscher's suit is aided by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, who last year helped get charges against another pregnant Wisconsin resident dropped after she was ordered to take an anti-addiction drug and, upon refusal, forced into residential drug treatment for two-and-a-half months.

Critics of laws like Wisconsin's claim they violate women's civil liberties and medical confidentiality while also driving up the likelihood of harm to fetuses, since moms-to-be will be less likely to seek drug treatment and/or prenatal care if they know it could land them in state custody. Reason TV explores a similar Tennessee statute here: 

h/t Association of Libertarian Feminists

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  1. Do they ask the men if they’ve stopped beating their wives?

  2. “Loertscher is now challenging the Wisconsin law allowing pregnant women to be jailed or put in protective custody for current or past drug or alcohol use.”

    You spelled Alabama wrong.

    Because something like this couldn’t possibly happen in Wisconsin.

    They’re liberal.

    You betcha!

    1. No, this is for their own good. The state knows best, so it’s obviously okay.

      Now, if this happened in a red state, it would obviously because they hate women, or something.

      I need to find a prog-infested place to post this article with Wisconsin replaced with Alabama or Texas and see the reactions I get.

      1. I’ve done that kind of switch before. Once I took a particularly stupid section of Obamacare, labeled it as something proposed by Sarah Palin and posted it.

        The Lefties lambasted it, one poster called it the stupidest POS that he had ever read. Then I revealed it was actually part of Obamacare. The pissed off exclamations were heart warming. And yet not one Lefty changed their mind about Obamacare. Because Obamacare has good intentions, of course. The actual verbage of the law was irrelevant to them.

        1. Beautiful.

          Do you have documentation of the incident? I, for one, welcome our would enjoy reading that stuff.

          1. Don’t worry. It all evens out in the end. When the kid doesn’t do well in school, he’ll be forced to take methamphetamine.

        2. I was watching the Daily Show last night with my wife (who has to watch it so she will know what opinions to have). They were talking about how the cost savings promised by Obamacare haven’t (and won’t) materialize because the law contains no price controls and basically serves to guarantee customers for insurance companies, paid for by Uncle Sam (I know, right? Who guessed?). She said “Thanks to the Republicans.”

          I learned a long time ago to not bother responding, but this time my head almost really did explode.

          1. Goddammit. I’m so angry that I now know this happened.

            It’s sort of similar to the way that people were talking about how Bush’s adventures in the Middle East would destabilize the region and result in catastrophe.

            10 years later, the region is catastrophically destabilized…so the Republicans blame Obama.

        3. Rush used to play a fun game like that on his show: he would read something and ask if it was from Earth in the Balance or the Unibomber Manifesto.

          It was always funny.

    2. But it’s flyover country, so they must be backwards hicks too. I’m so confused about which regions of the country I’m supposed to look down on.

      1. Fucking Wisconsin (despite electing Scott Walker) is pretty fucking progressive. The area around Madison could easily be mistaken for any prog enclave on either coast if a guy didn’t know better.

        That is why I can’t believe they have a law on the book that:

        “Social workers can initiate confidential legal action in children’s court,” explains the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, and “lawyers get appointed for a woman’s fetus.”

        If I hadn’t read this story, I would never have believed that liberal WI wimmen would have allowed the concept of a fetus being acknowledged as a human with rights.

        1. I think WI has a good mix of hicks and urban progressives. But that was way too serious a response to my silly comment.

          Progs are all about encouraging (or forcing) “proper” pre-natal care. Which makes sense from the progressive point of view. If the fetus is going to become a full human being some day, then protect the future human.

          1. I used to have a cabin in Siren, WI. It is pretty much out in hicksville country, but they love themselves a bunch of regulations. The list of what you could and couldn’t do with your property was pretty impressive (in a depressing sort of way).

            About the only thing that I can say in their defense is that they allow you to fish with 3 fishing rods at the same time. (Minnesoda only allows 1).

          2. She should have gotten an abortion before she showed up in court again.

      2. If they are human they mostly believe in harsh penalties for even the most trite breakage of rule.

        Region seems to have little to do with it when all factors, however inconvenient, are considered.

  3. Brilliant, a law that makes it so that pregnant women will be afraid to admit to past drug use and potentially seek help for the sake of their child.

    1. No lawmaker would be interested in the job if they could not utilize fear and trembling as a legal device.

      It is likely that the vast majority of lawmaker are sadists.

  4. That’s what you get for assaulting your child. It’s well past time for the government to require every woman of child bearing age to submit to monthly drug screenings so we can ensure that no unborn child is ever subjected to this kind of abuse.

    1. Just “monthly”? Why do hate children? WHY?!

      1. *you*

        *** calms down ***

  5. Honestly, about the worst thing a person can do is get on the DCF radar. Once they decide to “help” you and your family, they will do so to the point of absurdity.

    And they seem to think confirmation bias is a arcane term that appears in the dictionary between concubine and corn-cob.

    1. They can be worse than an army of Hitlers. It amazes me how often I see a story where they kidnap kids out of a good home, and a week later I hear about a kid who died from abuse/ neglect after the same people said everything was fine there.

      1. Like all government officials, CPS workers take the path of least resistance. Why deal with violent meth addicts when you can easily kidnap kids from decent families?

        1. Right on. It is way easier to explain to solid middle class citizens how and why you are fucking them over. Then tell them if they bend over and kiss your ass you might give them their kid back.

          The poor bastard will totally do what you want.

          Contrast that with trying to deal with people who have a history of violence and poor impulse control. Try messing with them and they might come unglued and really fuck you up.

          1. Solid middle class citizens for the most part don’t even know CPS exists.

            1. Just to give you an idea of how fucked up in can be, here in Massachusetts, we have a thing called a Child Requiring Assistance petition.

              And yes, all it takes is an initial hearing with no requirement to produce evidence, and either the child or the parent or both can be put on probation. And yes, it can be applied to kids in first grade.

              A probation violation can land a kid in juvie hall.

              1. Families and Children Engaged in Services(FACES) … replaced
                Child in Need of Services (CHINS)

                You can’t fool *me*, tarran. That’s from The Onion.

                1. Sadly, no. There is really such a thing as a CHINS petition. It’s what CPS files with the court to get permission to snatch a child.

                2. Hey, if that’s what the CRAP says, then that’s what the crap is.

              2. Child Requiring Assistance Petition.

                *snert*

            2. My father was a probation officer. He has a whole bunch of scare stories about how normal families can get caught up in this shit.

              Your kid has some freak accident and CPS gets involved because a teacher or doctor ratted them out due to mandatory reporting laws. If the parents don’t kiss CPS ass from the very beginning, they get fucked over.

              Meanwhile my father had a guy on his caseload who was a violent sociopath who had 5 kids that he regularly mistreated. CPS wouldn’t touch those kids because they feared for their lives if they were asked to deal with the dad.

            3. They know it exists, but not by direct experience. They know about it through news reports, and how it protects innocent babies from those bad people in the wrong parts of town.

              CPS has a huge constituency among the soccer moms – they are willing to sacrifice anyone (else’s) rights if it (might) save one child.

  6. Make that fucking baby pay for mama’s sins really fucking good. Just teach that fucking baby a tough goddamn lesson about how you should NEVER be a fetus in a law-breaker.

    Praise the lord and the state that O’Donnell’s people taught a baby the hard way!

  7. Won’t be long before the US government starts rounding up the Jews.

    BUT THAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN HERE! -Team Red/Blue

    1. The state maintained by Progressives and Christians destroys thousands of families every year when parents break particular laws.

      The burgeoning prison system is proof of this and the failing American family is proof of this.

      Sure, this is a far cry from ’rounding up the Jews’ but it certainly smacks of a governmental mindset that isn’t remotely interested in heading the opposite direction.

  8. So here I am at the Santa Monica courthouse getting misinformed at every turn so that I get frustrated and pay a U-turn citation.

    U-turns, even in business districts, are legal in Dallas and I got one shortly after moving to LA. I called early last month to schedule my arraigned for later, which they’re now saying I missed my arraignment. But all I need to do is go to a “walk-in trial” with a slip that says “reason: missed arraignment.” I had an argument with some title-less lady at a window that I gavent missed it. The law is totally complicated for no reason. How does anyone possibly leave a courthouse not as a libertarian?

    1. I am requesting a trial by written declaration using the excuse that I was a new resident to the state and wasn’t acting purposefully unlawfully. It’s weak, I know, but I figured its my right to try at least.

      No clue what I’m doing or waiting for at this point and simply asking a question gets anyone who works here extremely defensive and argumentative.

      1. You are just begging to get your dog shot.

        1. We just got our newborn to sleep in her crib last week, and we all know those things are magnets for flash bangs and other police issued incendiary devices.

      2. If you don’t plead guilty, you can’t go to traffic school and get it erased from your record. Keep that in mind.

        1. Hmmm, should have kept that in mind. Welp, my eggs are in one basket now so hoping for the best.

    2. Careful. You keep on the way you’re going and you’ll be lucky to only get tasered.

    3. Good luck. And remember that the system is also rigged to throw business to lawyers.

  9. Critics of laws like Wisconsin’s claim they violate women’s civil liberties and medical confidentiality while also driving up the likelihood of harm to fetuses

    “Who cares? They’re not human, anyway.”

    /Logically-consistent, Non-Polylogist Pro-abortion advocate.

  10. Roll with it slappy slappy.

    http://www.Way-Anon.tk

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