Fresh from unsuccessfully arguing that requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admission privileges protects women's health, Wisconsin State Attorney General Brad Schimel now must defend a law that, according to a lawsuit, resulted in a pregnant woman being jailed for almost three weeks without prenatal care.
The suit, filed by Tamara Loertscher, challenges the constitutionality of the state's "cocaine mom" law that allows pregnant women to be locked up if they test positive for illegal drugs. Loertscher says in her amended complaint that she was not provided prenatal care during the 18 days she was jailed in Taylor County and that a "jail doctor" told her that "if your body decides to abort, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Loertscher also says she was thrown into solitary confinement for refusing to take a urine test to confirm her already established pregnancy.
"The solitary confinement cell was a room without windows containing only a toilet and a metal bed frame," the complaint says. "The room was cold and filthy. The floor, walls, and toilet area had hair and feces on them, and there were fingernails visible beneath the mattress frame. There was no mattress on the bed. Ms. Loertscher was given only a roll of toilet paper. A guard provided a thin mattress and blanket in the evening and another guard took these away first thing in the morning. Ms. Loertscher remained in this cell for approximately 36 hours."
So, in front of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, a woman's life is important, but in the Taylor County Jail, not so much. It will be really interesting to see how Schimel reconciles his arguments in those two cases. The state has asked that the case be dismissed, a request denied by District Judge James D. Peterson once before.
Here is the full complaint in the Loertscher case, filed in federal court in the Western District of Wisconsin.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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