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Woman challenges Wisconsin's 'Cocaine Mom' law

In Wisconsin, a law exists that is referred to both as a fetal protection law and as a cocaine mom law. In essence, this law compels pregnant women deemed to have a severe degree of drug dependency to ingest anti-addiction drugs and/or spend time in chemical dependency treatment facilities.

This law aims to curtail drug use by pregnant women that would seriously affect infants immediately after birth or that could potentially risk the safety of a fetus in substantial ways. A new, high-profile drug case has been filed by a pregnant Wisconsin woman who is challenging the legitimacy of this law.

A number of national civil rights and pregnant women advocacy groups have spoken out in recent days in support of challenging the law as it is currently constructed. For example, the executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women recently noted that the challenge is both welcome and novel. She stated that “This is really the first affirmative civil rights challenge to a law that explicitly says the state can control adult women because they're pregnant.”

Critics of the current law are concerned that it is both unconstitutional and poor public policy. Some medical experts have explained that the law keeps pregnant women from being able to seek help from their doctors because they fear that they will be placed in intensive treatment and will potentially have their children taken from them.

It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin responds to the challenge as time passes. No matter what one’s opinions are in regards to safeguarding pregnancies, it is critical that the rights of pregnant women are respected in public policies affecting them.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Pregnant woman fights Wisconsin's fetal protection law,” Bruce Vielmetti, Oct. 24, 2013

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