Tammy Loertscher used drugs before she knew she was pregnant, but quit as soon as she found out. Her mistake was being honest with doctors about it. She ended up in jail.
From The Atlantic story:
The local child welfare department appointed a lawyer for Loertscher’s fetus, even though Loertscher did not have a lawyer herself. “I was so upset,” Loertscher says, “And I had no idea how things worked. I’d never been in trouble before.” (Aside from a bounced check charge from several years ago, Loertscher has no criminal record.) Loertscher was brought into a room at the hospital and told the judge was on the phone. She told the judge she didn’t want to speak without a lawyer present and left the room. The judge finished the hearing without her and ordered her to treatment.
“I don’t understand why this is happening,” Loertscher recalls saying at the time. “Since I had the inkling that I was pregnant, I didn’t do anything … They said I was terrible. And I wasn’t.” Remembering that period of time brought her to tears. Loertscher believed going to treatment would require her to admit that she was an addict, which she insisted she wasn’t. And so she was found in contempt of court and incarcerated.
During her 18 days in jail, Loertscher says she received no prenatal care and, when she refused to submit to urine tests, was put in solitary confinement, with nothing but a roll of toilet paper.
Loertscher sued in federal court, alleging the 1997 "cocaine mom" law allowing her jailing is unconstitutional. The state tried and failed to get the suit dismissed. It will continue to move forward.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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