Once upon a few months ago, in a horrible dark land called Wisconsin, a woman who was 14-weeks pregnant confessed to her doctor that in the previous year, she'd battled— and recently kicked— an addition to pills. But her doctor didn't believe her, so he told authorities. And under the justification of a surprisingly common "cocaine mom" law, the pregnant woman was shackled, put on trial, and, thanks to the arguments of an attorney appointed to legally represent her unborn fetus, forced to undergo a 78-day drug treatment program. Except — oopsie — the woman was not on drugs. She tested clean.
Two weeks after that prenatal visit the social worker showed up unannounced at Ms. Beltran’s home, telling her to restart Suboxone treatment or face a court order to do so. “I told her I’m off this stuff and I don’t want to go back on it,” she recalled, admitting that she lost her temper and shut the door on the social worker after saying, “Maybe I should just get an abortion.”
Two days later, the sheriffs arrived to take her to the county jail and the initial hearing. The case against Ms. Beltran was bolstered by the statement of Dr. Angela Breckenridge, an obstetrician at the West Bend Clinic South at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
In a letter dated July 16, Dr. Breckenridge said that Ms. Beltran had “openly admitted” taking opiates during pregnancy and was still using Suboxone.
“She exhibits lack of self-control and refuses the treatment we have offered her,” wrote Dr. Breckenridge, who, according to Ms. Beltran, had not personally met or examined her. She recommended “a mandatory inpatient drug treatment program or incarceration,” adding, “The child’s life depends on action in this case.”
Beltran was sent to rehab after being threatened with a jail sentence. As a result, she lost her job.
The law that incarcerated 28 year old Alicia Beltran isn't really that rare; Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota are the four states who currently have laws on the books that gives the state authority to confine pregnant women who are suspected to be endangering their fetuses by using drugs, according to the New York Times. Twenty other states have attempted to pass laws criminalizing substance abuse during pregnancy only to have them blocked by courts.
Beltran has since filed suit against the state. If she wins, it's great news for women everywhere. If she loses, more legal justification for states that wish to legally enshrine the superiority of the fetus into law.
Unsurprisingly, the most vocally pro-sending-pregnant-women-to-jail group are right-to-lifers, who think that women are evil and incapable of making their own decisions about their bodies. More from the Times,
Bonnie Ladwig, a retired state representative who helped write the [Wisconsin] law, called it an appropriate effort to prevent harm. “It’s the same as abuse of a child after it’s born,” she said. “If the mother isn’t smart enough not to do drugs, we’ve got to step in.”
"If the mother isn't smart enough..." There you have it, friends. The pro-life attitude toward women in a succinct, hateful little nutshell. Women need to be punished because women aren't smart enough to do control their own bodies. Women need protection. Women need a daddy, forever.
Firmly against the laws are groups containing people who wouldn't fail a basic biology class, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who two years ago released a statement condemning "cocaine mom" laws as ultimately harmful to both women and the fetuses they're designed to protect.
Whatever happens with Beltran's court case will set an interesting precedent, either way.
And America lived crappily ever after.