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The State Wanted to Treat Her Like a 'Handmaid.' She Fought Back

Tamara Loertscher gave birth to a healthy baby boy in 2015. Then she challenged the Wisconsin law that nearly kept them apart.

Imagine China/NewscomImagine China/Newscom

When Tamara Loertscher was a teenager, radiation treatment left her unable to produce thyroid hormones, subjecting her to depressive spells and fatigue when she wasn't on medication. The condition also made it difficult to impossible for her to become pregnant—or so she thought. But at age 29, Loertscher found herself facing a positive pregnancy test.

The timing was bad, to put it mildly. Earlier that year—2014—Loertscher lost her job, leaving her unable to afford the thyroid medication. Depression kicked in, and then a methamphetamine habit. She began using meth two or three times a week to "help her get out of bed in the morning," as she put it. She also sometimes drank alcohol or smoked marijuana.

After the first pregnancy test, in early July, Loertscher "cut back" on the drugs but didn't quit entirely, according to what she told hospital staff. Loertscher would later contend that she didn't believe the first pregnancy test was accurate. But when a second test, taken on July 30, showed the same result, Loertscher "believed for the first time that she might actually be pregnant." Two days later, she showed up at the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Mayo Clinic Hospital in pursuit of an official pregnancy confirmation, thyroid medication, and "psychiatric care," according to court documents. She also wanted confirmation from a doctor that the baby would be OK despite her hypothyroidism and prior drug use.

A urine test revealed that she was indeed pregnant—about 14 weeks—and also showed "unconfirmed positives" for marijuana and meth. Loertscher told the emergency room doctor that she wanted to stop the drugs, take care of herself, and have a healthy baby. She willingly signed herself into the Mayo Clinic Behavioral Health Unit that evening, and the next morning met with a psychiatrist, to whom she stressed that the drug use had been before she knew she was pregnant.

The good news was that the fetus seemed fine, a Mayo obstetrician confirmed. Nonetheless, two days later, while Loertscher was still (voluntarily) hospitalized, a Mayo clinic social worker contacted local authorities to report that a pregnant woman had tested positive for drugs.

What followed was a scene right out of The Handmaid's Tale, the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel turned 2017 Hulu series in which women are broadly discriminated against based on sex, with a certain subset relegated to a birther caste (the handmaids). In one scene from the new series, handmaid Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) is brought before a court on charges of being a "gender traitor," or lesbian—charges the state has already determined apply, and to which she can proffer no defense.

As in the show, Loertscher was only summoned before government adjudicators once they had already decided she was guilty and knew how they planned to deal with it. Her request for legal representation was ignored, even while her fetus had been appointed its own attorney.

Eventually Loertscher would wind up in solitary confinement, denied prenatal care, all in the name of protecting her unborn. But this tale has a happy ending: last week, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin sided with Loertscher.

"Cocaine Moms" and Kangaroo Courts

Loertscher's plight was enabled by Wisconsin's Unborn Child Protection Act, passed in 1997 in the midst of "cocaine mom" panic. An amendment to the state Children's Code, it stipulated that "unborn children" at any gestational age could qualify as a child in need of state protection if the "expectant mother's habitual lack of self-control in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances, or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree, [poses] a substantial risk" of harm to the embryo or fetus.

"Anti-abortion organizations used popular but scientifically disproven myths about pregnant women and cocaine use to lobby for a law that purported to protect 'unborn children,'" said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Association for Pregnant Women, "but in fact subverted maternal and child health and deprived adult women who became pregnant of fundamental constitutional rights."

After the Mayo Hospital social worker reached out to the Taylor County Department of Human Services (TCDHS), Loertscher's case was assigned to social worker Julie Clarkson. The person who initially "screened" the report "did not contact a physician or review Loertscher's medical records when she decided that the County would investigate and assess the report," the district court decision notes. Clarkson reached out to the hospital worker who had initially called and, by a little after noon, she and the TCDHS deputy director had signed off on a recommendation that Loertscher be placed in an inpatient substance-abuse treatment facility for an unspecified amount of time.

That afternoon, Clarkson informed Loertscher via phone of the county's investigation and told her that should she decline the inpatient treatment, she may be placed in state custody. "Around 40 minutes later, County personnel had completed a temporary physical custody request," court documents state. At no point had anyone from the county yet spoken with Loertscher in person. By later that afternoon, a guardian ad litem had been appointed to act on behalf of Loertscher's fetus.

When Loertscher met with the hospital social worker again, she found her "unhelpful" and "judgmental" and told staff she was ready to leave. A nursing manager informed her that wasn't possible because the county had placed a hold on her.

The next day, the social worker "told Loertscher that there was a judge on the phone for her," according to the district court.

In fact, Loertscher was about to participate, by phone, in her temporary physical custody hearing. The state maintains that [hospital staff] told Loertscher about the hearing earlier that morning; Loertscher maintains that she did not understand what was going on. Loertscher stated that she did not wish to speak without legal representation and that she did not want to take part in the proceeding until she had a lawyer. The Loertscher left the room.

The Taylor County court commissioner decided that this meant Loertscher had waived her appearance. The commissioner, TCDHS counsel, the fetus lawyer, and other TCDHS staff stayed on the phone and finished the hearing, with testimony from Jennifer Bantz, the hospital obstetrician who had been seeing Loertscher. Bantz later testified that she had not understand the purpose of the call. When it was concluded, the commissioner entered an order of temporary physical custody against Loertscher, requiring her to stay at the Mayo Hospital until she was transferred to an inpatient drug-treatment facility, which she would remain in "until the program directors deem it appropriate to release her."

Catch-Tuberculosis Test

In order to enter the inpatient treatment facility, Loertscher was required to prove that she didn't have tuberculosis. She agreed to submit to a test that didn't require drawing blood, but not to the proposed blood test. It was a no-go.

In the meantime, however, Loertscher persuaded hospital doctors to sign off on her discharge, telling them she wanted to stay off drugs and on her thyroid meds, get a prescription for prenatal vitamins, and choose her own healthcare providers. Loertscher's doctor said that she was not an imminent danger to herself or others and "that just because she has used [drugs] in the past does not mean she will again."

The government responded by requesting that Loertscher be found in contempt for failing to submit to the tuberculosis test. A hearing on the contempt charge was scheduled for August 25, about three weeks later. But just two days after that, the county filed another motion, this time seeking "to take expectant mother into immediate custody." It was granted that day, with the court citing both Loertscher's "habitual use of controlled substances" and failure to take the tuberculosis test.

At the time, Loertscher was living with her grandparents. When police showed up that night to arrest her, the grandfather somehow talked him out of it. The county agreed she could stay at her grandparents' home until the hearing, which was postponed to September 4.

During the hearing, Loertscher testified that she could stay clean and healthy without full-time hospitalization and explained why—while she did indeed want to stay off drugs—she was reticent to accept treatment overseen by the state. "I feel like I went to the hospital and sought treatment and then they violated my rights and all these people got this information that I feel they shouldn't have gotten," said Loertscher. "And I feel my whole stay there was made worse."

Loertscher was found in contempt and ordered to cooperate with the inpatient treatment plan or serve 30 days in jail. She opted for jail.

"Protecting" the Unborn

Once in jail, Loertscher was told she would have to submit to another pregnancy test if she wanted access to an obstetrician or other specialized prenatal care—nevermind the fact that she was visibly pregnant at this point, or that the whole reason she was in jail in the first place was related to her pregnancy. She refused to take the test.

A few weeks in, after complaining to the regular jail doctor about cramping, she was once again ordered to take a pregnancy test if she wanted to see an obstetrician. When she again refused to submit to the test, Loertscher was placed in solitary confinement.

After this, Loertscher got in touch with a public defender. With the lawyer's help, she was able to get the contempt charge purged and resolve the child-abuse petition against her so long as she submitted to the state's substance-abuse assessment, submit to weekly drug testing (at her own expense) and turn the results over to TCDHS. She complied.

All further drug tests were negative.

The county still found Loertscher guilty of "child maltreatment," but the ruling was later withdrawn.

Not long thereafter, Loertscher gave birth to a healthy baby who, now 2, has grown into a healthy toddler. She also filed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's unborn-child protection law in federal court.

Void for Vagueness

In its April 28 decision, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin concluded that Wisconsin's "cocaine mom" law was void for vagueness and unconstitutional. "At the heart of the Act are two concepts: 'habitual lack of self-control' and 'substantial risk to the physical health of the unborn child,'" the ruling states. However, "neither of these concepts is amenable to reasonably precise interpretation. Thus, the Act affords neither fair warning as to the conduct it prohibits nor reasonably precise standards for its enforcement."

Lawmakers were warned of this going in. The Unborn Child Protection Act was passed in response to another court case, in which the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that juvenile courts were not authorized to exercise jurisdiction over adult pregnant women in connection with "child in need of protection or services" petitions. Soon thereafter, the state legislature amended the law to allow it.

As the legislature considered the change, the Wisconsin Legislative Council said that its constitutionality was "highly doubtful." Meanwhile, the state's Division of Children and Family Services, Division of Public Health substance-abuse bureau, and the City of Milwaukee Health Department all opposed it on the grounds that it would discourage pregnant women who had or were using drugs from seeking addiction treatment and prenatal care. "A criminal justice approach to maternal and child health is not the best alternative," and "readily available drug and alcohol treatment for expectant mothers would be preferable to threatening mothers with incarceration and loss of parental rights," the children's department warned.

In the present case, the court noted that "both sides have adduced voluminous and, at times, conflicting evidence regarding the specific risks associated with alcohol and other substance abuse while pregnant and the efficacy of state-mandated treatment programs. But one thing remains undisputed: the experts cannot ascertain with any degree of medical certainty the precise levels of alcohol and controlled substance use that trigger a risk of serious danger to the unborn child."

The court pointed out that Wisconsin lawmakers could have simply forbidden "the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances, or controlled substance analogs..." by pregnant women, but instead implicated "expectant mother's habitual lack of self-control in the use of alcohol beverages," etc. Why is this troubling to the judges?

This introduces the possibility that the Act could be enforced against any drug- or alcohol-dependent woman who was pregnant, because her history of substance abuse could be invoked to demonstrate the requisite lack of self-control, regardless of whether she actually used controlled substances while pregnant.

This point proved critical in Loertscher's case, because she professed no intent to continue her drug and alcohol use once her pregnancy was confirmed. Her purported habitual lack of self-control was based on her history of modest drug and alcohol use, which she self-reported while seeking medical care. … Loertscher, despite her good intentions, was somehow suspected of habitually lacking self-control and she was involuntarily detained for the good of her fetus.

"The point," the court concluded, "is that the conduct covered by the [Unborn Child Protection] Act is fundamentally unclear." And so, too, the concept of risk.

"How much risk constitutes a substantial risk to the health of the child? The State has no meaningful answer," the ruling states. Nor can "current medical science" say "what level of drug or alcohol use will pose a substantial risk of serious damage to an unborn child." In light of this, some doctors recommend complete abstinence from not just hard drugs but also alcohol and other substances, like nicotine, throughout a person's pregnancy. Thus, under Wisconsin law,

... an expectant mother who does not maintain complete sobriety simply cannot know when she would be subject to the Act. There is no way for her to know what type of behavior demonstrates a habitual lack of self-control to a severe degree in the eye of the enforcer, much less whether behavior prior to pregnancy may end up being sufficient to trigger the Act's control over her once she conceives.

Again, it sounds like something out of The Handmaid's Tale. But for those pushing the Hulu series as #Allegory for the dangers of Donald Trump (a theory that fails for far too many reasons to get into here), it might be wise to remember that when Wisconsin passed the act that ensnared Loertscher, its House was controlled by Republicans and its Senate controlled by Democrats. Infringing on adults' civil liberties and bodily autonomy in the name of (current or future) children has long been a bipartisan affair, and still is. The most plausible route to anything like a Handmaid's Tale scenario in the near future isn't an ascendancy of Bible-thumping, gay-fearing, traditional-gender-role worshiping zealots protected by a far-right militia but the piecemeal, gradual erosion of the rights of pregnant women (and then anyone who could potentially or desirably become pregnant) done in the name of children's health and safety. It's not the threat of America falling to fundamentalist Christian patriarchy but the Cult of Good Motherhood, to which no political ideology can claim a monopoly on membership.

For the record, the risk posed to developing fetuses by various criminalized drugs is much less "than once thought," says Aleksandra Zgierska, a Wisconsin family medicine and addiction specialist. "The best ways to protect babies and grow healthy children is to provide confidential, non-threatening health care that keeps mothers engaged in treatment, if they need it, and mothers and babies together."

Photo Credit: Imagine China/Newscom

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  • WakaWaka||

    I don't know. Isn't this a slippery slope. Why do we take children away from the homes of drug addicts? Should you only be able to abuse drugs when the child is not fully developed?

    At some point you have to acknowledge that a child is autonomous from parents, otherwise you have a tough argument to make as to why female genital mutilation is not be allowed.

  • Kivlor||

    I have the distinct feeling that ENB doesn't deal much with kids whose mothers were doing drugs while pregnant.

    I have. And it's horrible.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    So, what this girl went through is okay with you? Wisconsin has a good policy?

  • MikeP2||

    The story sounds like the situation was a solid mix of typical state bureaucracy, a bunch of stand-up people (grandfather, obstetrictian, public defender, arresting cop) who tried to do right, and a 'victim' that at every turn was being contrary and/or failing to understand what's going on around her. And this from what is surely written by ENB to make the 'victim' sound favorable.

    She was given a choice between inpatient treatment or jail. she chose jail. Then was told she had to take a preg test for access to an obstetrician (common practice), she refused. She had cramping...refused to take the test again. Childish and self-destructrive behavior. Difficult to find much pity for someone like that.

    Could the laws be better? certainly. Is it common knowledge that maternal drug use has documented detrimental effects on the unborn? yes...yes it is.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Then was told she had to take a preg test for access to an obstetrician (common practice), she refused.

    She had already taken three pregnancy tests, at least two of which were on her medical records.

  • MikeP2||

    medical records are irrelevant, largely due to hipa. The jail needs their own records.

    Everyday we all deal with utterly pointless bureaucracy, where we have a choice to martyr ourselves or choose to fight more important battles. She decided it would be better to avoid care for her unborn child then pee on a stick.
    That is not a laudable action. It's a bit pathetic.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    She decided it would be better to avoid care for her unborn child then pee on a stick.

    I'm glad she got to consult her lawyer, you know, a person who is working for her best interests and could help explain to her what is actually happening.

  • MikeP2||

    you mean the lawyer she didn't actually obtain until after the hearing, after going to jail, after being placed in solitary?

  • sparkstable||

    No, the lawyer she requested during the phone meeting. The one she was denied having present during a legal proceeding that would decide her fate.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Well then I guess it helps that she was also visibly pregnant.

  • BYODB||

    You think the state can't get access to an inmates medical records? You're a hoot. Jails don't want to be unaware of things like if an inmate has Hepatitis or HIV. At the very least they could force her to take a pregnancy exam.

    Letting a woman give birth in her jail cell is, shall we say, non-ideal from the jails standpoint.

    That doesn't make you wrong, since you don't appear to be making any particular claim, but HIPPA doesn't mean 'no one can get your medical records, ever' it means 'there is a process for getting someone's medical records'. The state controls that process, by the by.

  • MikeP2||

    That is not true. HIPPA is quite strict. Which is why you have to sign a waiver for almost anything involved medical records.
    If she refused to sign a waiver, then no, the jail can't get her records

  • Tionico||

    she did NOT "refuse to sign a waiver". that was not an option offered to her. Take the test WE want you to take, or else...... the jail COULD have, but did not, offer her the option of signing the release... but I'll wager ten dollar bills to stale donut holes that jail had the power to force all her medical records to be released... especially since she had been under treatment and custody of OTHER county agencies and had her medical records with that agency. Government hooh hahs have ways of obtaining whatever documents they want. No, they wanted HER... and I smell a thinly veiled attempt to get their own "new" draw, to "find" evidence of continued drug use that did not exist. Ever hear of THAT meme?

  • MikeP2||

    That is not true. HIPPA is quite strict. Which is why you have to sign a waiver for almost anything involved medical records.
    If she refused to sign a waiver, then no, the jail can't get her records

  • BYODB||

    For your edification MikeP2:

    Government Access to Health Records

  • BYODB||

    And just for the record, while I agree the prison would probably find it simpler to do their basic medical testing in-house for many common diseases such as Hepatitis, that doesn't preclude the possibility that they could probably find a way to gain access to those records through alternate means. This goes double for something as obviously simple as a urine test on an inmate that could prove to be a massive liability when her baby drops out onto the tile floor of the showers.

  • Trainer||

    State agents don't have to have a signature to get medical records. Period.

  • Tionico||

    The jail needs their own records.

    WHY? To increase the size and scope of a publically funded racket? The patient could have easily signed the release to comply with Uncle Stupid's ideas of medical security and thus the jail could have, in less time than it would take to DO the test, the information they claimed to need.

    Based on her prior history with these Wisconsin nannies, I say she did right refusing a new test. HOW could she be certain they'd not "find" "evidence" of continued drug use in their own lab tests? Ever hear of a jailhouse or prosecution "test" being "rigged" or falisfied? I have...... this public entity was FAR beyond any reasonable scope of authority.
    Didja know, also, that when infants are involved, and a county agency takes charge, they get HUGE sums of FedGov money for their "good work"? They LOVE to make excuses to take mothers and children like this pair "under their wing". It fills their pockets with public cash.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Just shut up and obey every nonsensical request by the state, citizen.

  • MikeP2||

    "Just shut up and obey every nonsensical request by the state, citizen."

    yeh...martyr yourself over the silly stuff. good luck with that.

  • BYODB||

    I too believe that resisting draconian laws that were subsequently found unconstitutional is meaningless and have no sympathy for the people who became the test cases that overturned shitty laws.

    /sarc

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    And obviously laws never get changed because someone had to become that martyr. /sarc

  • WakaWaka||

    That's actually a measured remark. And true.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Childish and self-destructrive behavior. Difficult to find much pity for someone like that.

    Don't wanna be a thug, don't get pregnant like a thug.

  • Zeb||

    I actually find it quite easy to find pity for people in such situations. Maybe they aren't making the best choices given what they are up against, but being childish and difficult isn't good reason for the state to fuck up your life.

  • MikeP2||

    "but being childish and difficult isn't good reason for the state to fuck up your life."

    Ah, but it is when you are a parent...or in this case a pending parent.

    my "childish and difficult" statement followed pointing out how she refused prenatal care because she wouldnt' take a pregnancy test in the jail she chose to enter instead of inpatient treatment.

    Jail over hospital....no care over peeing on a stick. so yeh....childish and difficult.

  • Zeb||

    Being put in the position of jail being the only alternative to the hospital in the first place is enough for my pity.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "being childish and difficult isn't good reason for the state to fuck up your life."

    Has the State ever needed a reason to fuck up a life?

    Seriously; The State should stay the fuck out of decisions that require subtle understanding and nuance - which describes pretty much any medical issue. Governments are good at brute force and bean counting, and should be prevented from straying into areas where those talents do not serve.

  • sparkstable||

    Given the history she had with the state and the colluding medical establishment during the phases of this ordeal prior to prison... it is completely understandable why she refused a new test administered by the state.

  • ||

    So, what this girl went through is okay with you? Wisconsin has a good policy?

    Hard cases make for bad law. But if we just amend the law to accommodate a woman walking into the hospital and demanding free shit we can make it good... and then name it after her.

    It's been a while since my reading of The Handmaid's Tale but I recall it being much more 1984-esque; where women weren't allowed to have bank accounts and your "family" snitched on you rather than explaining it to the police and the police accepting the explanation.

  • Mark22||

    So, what this girl went through is okay with you?

    This "girl" is a 29 year old woman.

    Wisconsin has a good policy?

    No, not at all. They should have just thrown her in jail for her illegal drug use instead of trying to help her.

  • Not a True MJG||

    It looks like that might be a virtue.

  • Kivlor||

    Parts of it yes. Others no. Obviously she was denied her rights, particularly to counsel, and the fact that while in jail she was refused access to an OBGYN while visibly pregnant, and while arrested for a pregnancy related issue, is absolutely appalling.

    I can think what was done with her was wrong and still think there is room for something to be done about people risking permanent damage to other people to get high.

  • Zeb||

    You do have to draw a line somewhere about what is unacceptable for parents to do to their children. But you have to watch for the slippery slope toward the state questioning any parenting decision. If drug use is cause for the state to intervene, why not nutritional choices too? That also has a significant effect on development.

    I don't think drug use should be sufficient cause for the state to get involved, for born or unborn children. There should be actual demonstrable harm or immanent danger to the child.

  • WakaWaka||

    I agree, a line should be drawn. I'm just not sure that drug use is the line to draw. I don't know it's not very convincing. I have seen children whose mothers abused drugs while pregnant and it has lasting ramifications.

  • Zeb||

    Drug use per se certainly shouldn't be the line.

    I'm inclined to say that the line should be at post-natal physical abuse. Yes, women can harm their unborn fetuses in all kinds of ways. But I favor a strong right to privacy when it comes to medical and reproductive matters. Doctors shouldn't be reporting their patients to the state for stuff like this. It seems to me that is only going to discourage people in situations like that from seeking appropriate medical care. And that will only make it worse.

  • Kivlor||

    This is the best argument to be made against such legislation, I think. The point that we don't want doctors reporting to the police without a warrant. It's absolutely right. And it's my biggest hangup on legislation to prevent and prosecute.

    I think the issue with "demonstrable harm" as you mentioned just prior to Waka's comment, is that much of the harm isn't demonstrable until later in life. It's still there, and will be demonstrable, in 4-8 years. By that point, it will be far too late, and the kid will have spent years in the custody of the person that chose to risk permanently harming them, just so she could get high...

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    To the exact point of the ruling, science can't say what is or isn't enough of any drug to strictly cause harm. If you can't define what harm is then how can you prescribe punishment or resolution?

    Of course "drug babies" are an issue, but so too is separating a wide swath of mothers from their born or unborn children simply because they "might" pose a threat to the baby.

  • BYODB||


    There should be actual demonstrable harm or immanent danger to the child.

    What, like an abortion hose being near her?

    That being said, the whole anti-abortion crowd have made this bed and this poor woman was the end result. People will get abortions, legal or not, I think history has shown that pretty decisively. But once you accept the notion that fetus are not people nor do they have any rights, up to and including the right to life, does it really matter if you cause them to have all sorts of bizarre and horrible mutations when or if they're born? Can't a woman using drugs habitually claim, right up until the last minute, that it's all kosher because she plans to terminate the pregnancy one of these days?

    It's as if there is no dotted line connecting a fetus to an eventual person, and I really don't think there's any particular way to bring the two sides of this issue together on common ground either logically or legally at the national level, nor does the federal government have the power to legislate in this particular area as far as I'm aware so one would think it would be up to either the states or the individual. That never seems to stop the Federal leviathan from butting in though, especially when it's for the children; or in this case against them.

  • ace_m82||

    People will get abortions, legal or not,

    People will murder/steal/rape/assault, legal or not.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Ohh! Let's make this into an abortion thread!

  • BYODB||

    Pretty much everything involving unborn children ends up being an abortion thread because abortion being legal implies that fetus aren't people and have no rights. Therefore, anything that insinuates that something that harms a fetus should be illegal is ludicrous because you can legally kill them up until a certain point without any legal ramifications. It's a 'legal murder', so to speak.

    Right?

    So I could be pregnant and drink as much as I want, and that should be legal unless I do it after the point where the fetus is no longer legally able to be aborted.

    While yes, this would mean that it's a meaningless distinction and a pointless bit of law that's where we find ourselves.

  • JParker||

    Pretty much everything involving unborn children ends up being an abortion thread because abortion being legal implies that fetus aren't people and have no rights.

    Wrong. Legal abortion implies that the mother has no obligation to the fetus. The fetus is then an innocent trespasser and the mother may evict or otherwise fail to provide a healthy environment for the fetus.

    This allows the notion that the fetus is a "rights bearing entity" while still permitting abortion or other activities that may be considered detrimental to the fetus, without logical conflict.

  • sparkstable||

    Your final paragraph would imply that drug use should not be, no matter the degree, grounds for any action against the mother.

    Or literally ANY otherwise legal action. If someone trespasses on my property (including my person) that places no limit or obligation on me... according to how I understand you.

    Thus, the argument by BYOBD still de facto stands. The functional argument he makes does not change by giving the unborn rights under the eviction theory.

  • ace_m82||

    I didn't want to, I just saw a ridiculous statement and had to mention it. I didn't comment further.

    I hate* logical inconsistency and appreciate it when other people point it out in me.

    *Literally, HATE it.

  • BYODB||

    I love it when someone picks out a point that wasn't central to the argument and beats it like a dead horse, personally. It's probably a habit of mine left over from debate, I should probably do something about that though. It distracts from the actual premise in 'the real world'.

  • ace_m82||

    Didn't beat it like a dead horse. Showed why it was meaningless.

  • Mark22||

    If drug use is cause for the state to intervene, why not nutritional choices too? I don't think drug use should be sufficient cause for the state to get involved, for born or unborn children.

    She's a single drug-addicted mother committing crimes. She and her kid are likely going to receive money and services from the state for the rest of their lives. So, the state is already massively "involved".

    So, the state should not get involved in parental choices at all, whether it is drug addition, single parenthood, or nutrition. But current and future state assistance should be made conditional on compliance with state rules and directives. She always has the option of getting help somewhere else (like the Catholic sisters of charity) if she prefers their rules. But giving people money to allow them to deal with the consequences of bad choices they have made without any strings attached is irresponsible and unacceptable.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Re: WakaWaka,

    Why do we take children away from the homes of drug addicts?


    Because your buddies and you engage in kidnapping for nefarious purposes?

    Or what's with this "we" business, Kemosabe?

  • WakaWaka||

    Calm down there, buddy. Does the state take children away from parents? Yes. Should the state take children away from parents? Messy topic.

    At some juncture everyone agrees that someone needs to step-in, because we must acknowledge that the child is an unique individual and that, at the same time, they have not achieved the cognitive ability to protect and provide for themselves.

    If the case were a father that beat his children or parents that opted for female circumcision on their child, I am certain that some people on here would take the opposite position.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Right, the point is that the slippery slope is in the legislation, which slips from "crack whore smoking crack and whoring while 8 months pregnant" to "self-medicated poor person wants to get properly medicated for the sake of the baby." So why keep bringing up all the bad examples at the top of the slope?

  • Mark22||

    First of all, this is not a "self-medicated poor person". Claiming that meth is "self-medication" for thyroid disease is laughable; thyroid medication is cheap and effective.

    Second, there is no "slippery slope" here: the state shouldn't be able to tell this woman how to live her life. If she chooses to become a single drug-addicted mother, that's her choice. But the state certainly should be able to attach strings to the receipt of government funds.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Demanding specificity in legislation and limiting the authority of the state to take children from their mothers is definitely a slippery slope that should concern all libertarians.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Stalin -- this is my nightmare. I'd rather be shot than held against my will by healthcare bureaucrats.

  • Hugh Akston||

    You're in luck, because the State offers both options!

  • Chipper Mourning LackOfSerifs||

    Isn't Donald Trump part of the birther caste?

  • Kivlor||

    "For the record, the risk posed to developing fetuses by various criminalized drugs is much less "than once thought," says Aleksandra Zgierska, a Wisconsin family medicine and addiction specialist. "The best ways to protect babies and grow healthy children is to provide confidential, non-threatening health care that keeps mothers engaged in treatment, if they need it, and mothers and babies together."

    I know this isn't usually looked favorably upon in Libertarian circles, but the best way to protect babies and grow healthy children is to NOT DO DRUGS YOU RETARD.

  • Chipper Mourning LackOfSerifs||

    I don't think anyone here is in favor of pregnant women doing meth. But I am not sure how you propose dealing with this sad problem. Let me suggest that government solutions are probably not the way to go.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The solution is that everyone should be as smart and as righteous as Kivlor, and that nobody should be less smart or less righteous than Kivlor. Why even bother discussion healthcare for pregnant women who use drugs when the solution is right there in front of us?

  • WakaWaka||

    To take your argument further. Instead of the parent abusing drugs, whatever the parent was inflicting physical abuse? Should anything be done? Or should we just demand that everyone be as virtuous as Kivlor?

  • Kivlor||

    I didn't say it's the only solution. I said it's the best. Do you think otherwise?

  • Paloma||

    If there ever was a case of a woman having the right to her own body and having that right violated, this is it. She may be an unsympathetic character, but to conclude she has no right to an attorney, she has no right to refuse invasive tests on her body, and no right to seek treatment except for what the state provides when and if she submits to its invasive examinations. We can concede the fetus is a human being without deny the mother is a human being as well. The medical bureaucrats seem to think they own both.

  • Kivlor||

    It's fair to say that most of us would prefer that the state not be involved. I don't think there's a way to address the problem without the state interfering with "women's rights". That doesn't necessarily mean they need to be thrown in jail, it's just that one way or another the rules regarding women's rights would have to be altered, which requires the state. I'm open to ideas though. Once upon a time, the girl's family would have been expected to step in. But taking your kid and forcing them to get clean would be kidnapping today...

    I've dealt with kids whose parents did meth while pregnant. It was horrible. They have huge cognitive and emotional issues, and are often given to violence. Many are wards of the state even as adults. Because of that, whether we like it or not, the state can easily argue a compelling interest in such cases.

  • Mark22||

    But I am not sure how you propose dealing with this sad problem. Let me suggest that government solutions are probably not the way to go.

    "Government solutions" are largely creating this problem, by having made single motherhood and drug addiction both feasible personal and economic choices. This woman doesn't want to be left alone by the state, what she wants is free government services without government interference in her life. That is not a libertarian position.

  • Zeb||

    Did you read the story? The person in question wanted to stop using drugs when she found she was pregnant.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    When police showed up that night to arrest her, the grandfather somehow talked him out of it.

    Way to bury the lede.

  • Wally||

    yeah what were they Jedi? or ex-police?

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    And the winner of "The Most Depressing Story Of The Week Award" goes to ENB.

    Her request for legal representation was ignored, even while her fetus had been appointed its own attorney.

    America!

  • Not a True MJG||

    Hey, she won her case and changed Wisconsin law, and is raising a healthy kid to boot. Some bright spots, at least.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That is a profoundly fucked up story, the only moral of which that I can glean is "Don't seek help from anyone even tenuously connected with the State." Good on Loertscher though for resisting where she could.

  • Not a True MJG||

    She should've stayed out of the system and continued self-medicating with whatever was available to her. Hopefully other women out there will learn from this example.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The state of Wisconsin will be there to correct them if they don't.

  • Kivlor||

    Yup. Definitely won't have any lasting negative effects on those women's children. They should definitely self-medicate with meth. /sarc

  • Not a True MJG||

    Some of us don't stoop to including the /sarc tag.

  • ace_m82||

    My wife and I are currently attempting to adopt an infant through an agency in (go figure) Wisconsin. The vast majority of children we have had the option to have the mother see our profile (the mother obviously ultimately chooses who adopts their child) have been to women who use some sort of mind altering chemicals. This law is apparently really poorly enforced.

    But that's not my main point. The author is right that illegal drugs are not even close to main issue. The government here actually forces prospective adoptive parents to take classes on what drugs do to a child during pregnancy. The second worst drug is nicotine which can cause (go figure) breathing issues and often straight-up death. But the worst is alcohol, which can mess the child up in so very many ways that I won't list here.

    So definitely trust the government to figure out which chemicals are the worst and making them illegal. Good job...

    Also, the unborn has the "right" to an attorney but not the right to life? The cognitive dissonance must hurt!

  • WakaWaka||

    I don't think ENB would argue they have a right to an attorney or life.

  • ace_m82||

    I wasn't talking about the author, but the state.

    I'm not sure from the story, but it sounds like the unborn had an attorney while it was still legal to abort (kill) it. That's some serious cognitive dissonance.

  • Zeb||

    Well, legal dissonance. Deliberately created by the anti-abortion people who wrote the law (this is an observation, not a judgement about the validity of the tactic).

  • ace_m82||

    Was it written by anti-abortionists? Or was it by drug-warriors? It seems like it's more likely the latter as it doesn't seem to ban abortion...

  • Zeb||

    Probably both. Promoting laws that appear to establish firmer legal personhood for fetuses is a pretty common tactic for anti-abortionists. Which is pretty understandable (even to pro-legal-abortion me) given that straight banning it isn't really on the table at this point.

  • lap83||

    "the "right" to an attorney but not the right to life?"

    Is it cognitive dissonance, though? I thought it was common knowledge that attorneys are not alive as we know it

  • Paloma||

    If meth is better than alcohol, we have no problem. I recall a recent study done in Europe that showed moderate drinking (a glass or two of wine a day) was healthier for unborn children than abstaining from alcohol.

  • ace_m82||

    When the corpus callosum is developing (a small window of time), even small amount of alcohol can mess you up for life. But otherwise, we have to compare apples to apples and show what a small amount of meth (adderall, for all accounts and purposes) would do compared to a small amount of alcohol.

    All of these things are really hard to pin down, though, due to "cross contamination" with other drugs. Also, people don't like telling you they are doing illegal things, as evidenced by the treatment of the woman in this article.

  • Zeb||

    I think he means serious alcohol abuse. Which is most certainly very harmful.

    Occasional moderate drinking seems to be fine. People who freak out about pregnant women drinking at all need to mind their own damn business.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    a guardian ad litem had been appointed to act on behalf of Loertscher's fetus.

    This seems to be directly contrary to abortion rulings, right? Maybe not in terms of bunk legal language which are meant to skirt things, but definitely in principle.

  • TW||

    Only insofar as the current abortion jurisprudence is mostly garbage. And by "mostly," I'm conceding that the use of punctuation marks is probably correct.

  • MikeP2||

    "Earlier that year—2014—Loertscher lost her job, leaving her unable to afford the thyroid medication. Depression kicked in, and then a methamphetamine habit."

    So...she couldn't afford the thyroid meds. but meth was in the budget.

  • WakaWaka||

    Just like the Handmaiden's Tale

  • Hugh Akston||

    I know right? It's almost like she lives in a world where prices for alternatives vary! Sad!

  • WakaWaka||

    Meth is an alternative to thyroid mediation?

  • WakaWaka||

    *medication

  • Chipper Mourning LackOfSerifs||

    Only if you have hypothyroidism.

  • BYODB||

    Now that you mention it, I would personally suspect that she was using meth for her weight gain. I'd bet dollars to donuts on that one. I've known women with hypothyroidism and they're almost universally hyper-sensitive about their weight. There are always exceptions though.

  • BYODB||

    I honestly don't know the going rate for thyroid medication, but it's conceivable that meth would be cheaper considering the costs involved in getting certain medications. In the case of medications that also require periodic doctors visits that cost can be far above the price of the medication on it's own when you factor in the costs of Doctor's visits with or without a copay/deductible/etc and/or the laboratory costs.

    I do wonder how this woman wasn't eligible for a slew of state benefits though. If she was an unemployed single mother that's usually enough for quite a few benefits not the least of which is Medicaid. I suspect her yearly earnings disqualified her but it's hard to say.

    Either way that's tangential to the article. Clearly someone that decides 'hey, meth will get me out of bed in the morning!' has a lot of other issues and a thyroid condition can make people do a lot of crazy things.

  • MikeP2||

    ...lost her job, couldn't buy "insert some basic need", turned to "insert something illegal".

    hmm. would that be formulaic?

  • BYODB||

    If by 'formulaic' you mean 'part of the human condition' than yeah. When rough times hit, plenty of people turn to substance abuse whether it's legal or illegal. The odd's of that go up the more woe's you pile on, and if you have a medical condition that produces altered states of consciousness than you have a recipe for a spiral.

    That's before you even start to talk about placebo effects and people's penchant for self-medication. There are plenty of people who believe that pot, for example, has all kinds of medical benefits that aren't supported by anything other than personal belief.

  • Longtobefree||

    Straight from the sixties;
    drugs will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no drug

  • MSimon||

    Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

    And it is -

    "dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope."

  • TW||

    The likely outcome of this case is that the district court's ruling will either be overturned on appeal or Wisconsin will make some minor modifications to its statute to correct the alleged "vagueness."

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    Donate to National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).

  • Tionico||

    Interesing "conflict" contained in this article. Wonder how many others caught it?
    Seems "the law of the land" regarding unborn children is that they have no rights, not even to life. Thus the Mother or Father of that child can elect to terminate that life, and as far as I know, no state have evernmoved to protect a not yet born child from his murder. NOW, in this case, an unborn child is even provided legal couunsel to assure his rights are protected. And on the government's nickel.

    Seems to me if an unborn child can have an attorney appointed by the State to protect his OTHER rights and interests, WHY not also others to protect their right to life itself, without which right nothing else matters?

  • MSimon||

    "Seems to me if an unborn child can have an attorney appointed by the State to protect his OTHER rights and interests, WHY not also others to protect their right to life itself, without which right nothing else matters?"

    Every unborn child should have a lawyer.

  • Galane||

    "...the experts cannot ascertain with any degree of medical certainty the precise levels of alcohol and controlled substance use that trigger a risk of serious danger to the unborn child."

    It's absolutely 100% certain that NOT doing drugs, smoking anything or drinking alcohol will not cause harm to a fetus.

  • Mark22||

    The good news was that the fetus seemed fine. ... But this tale has a happy ending: last week, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin sided with Loertscher.

    The fetus isn't fine. The fetus is going to be born to, and raised by, an irresponsible mother who has unmarried sex without protection, who is incapable of affording or using thyroid medication (cheap and simple), and who chooses to take drugs while pregnant. She and her kid are likely going to be public charges for the rest of their lives.

    Again, it sounds like something out of The Handmaid's Tale.

    No, it doesn't. It sounds like a progressive state trying to support, and take responsibility for, someone who is dangerously irresponsible and who is going to harm the "common good" without such support. The conservative/libertarian response, on the other hand, would be to leave her alone to the consequences of her actions and ostracize her, giving her the option of giving up her baby for adoption.

    ENB seems to want to simply give her a no-strings-attached stipend to continue her irresponsible behavior while pretending that bad things just happen to her by chance. That is not a feasible public policy, nor is it morally acceptable.

  • MikeP2||

    "ENB seems to want to simply give her a no-strings-attached stipend to continue her irresponsible behavior while pretending that bad things just happen to her by chance. That is not a feasible public policy, nor is it morally acceptable."

    ^^^

    The whole article is a proggy-like sob story. What part of Libertarian philosophy states that it is okay to be dependent upon the State, but yet expect the State to do what you want it to do? She consciously went to the State for help, but then didn't like how the State decided to help her. boo friggin hoo

    And to amend some of my prior comments on this. After further thought, I'm guessing that she chose jail of inpatient because she had a greater opportunity to continue to use in jail. Contrary to her professed desire to go clean....an inpatient facility would have forced that...something she didn't really want. And that's why she was repeatedly refusing the pee-test for pregnancy (and why the jail was pushing it)....she knew it would show substance abuse. Jail probably put her in solitary to force her clean. boo friggin hoo

  • Cardiologist||

    The only issue I have with this story is the statement "Loertscher lost her job, leaving her unable to afford the thyroid medication." Thyroid replacement (Synthroid) is $4.00 a month, less than the cost of a single dose of meth. Just the same it sickens me that the State does this in my name. AG Sessions is waiting to unleash this lunacy everywhere.

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