U.S. Supreme Court orders stay on the Wisconsin Unborn Child Protection Act

Published: Jul. 7, 2017 at 9:16 PM CDT
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The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a Wisconsin law that allows local municipalities to intervene when a pregnant woman is suspected of drug abuse remain in effect.

Friday the court issued the stay agreeing to Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel's request.

The law will remain in effect while an appeal to a judge's ruling striking it down as unconstitutional is pending.

In April, a federal judge ruled the Wisconsin Unborn Child Protection Act unconstitutionally vague but speaking with Schimel says not allowing the law to remain in effect could put the health of a number of Wisconsin mothers and their children in danger.

“It addresses the needs of women who are pregnant and struggling with a substance abuse disorder,” said Schimel. “It is heartbreaking to hear hospital staff describe what it's like trying to treat a baby that's addicted to drugs. We certainly want to promote the birth of healthy children at a good birth weight.”

Opponents to the law say it may prevent pregnant women who are struggling with an addiction from seeking prenatal care because they’re afraid of being incarcerated.

Eau Claire Democratic Party Chair Beverly Wickstrom said, “Anything that gives a disincentive to women to go in to get prenatal care is something that is very, very dangerous to our society, to the health of the mother, to the health of the baby and to the long-term prognosis to the baby.”

However Schimel says only in rare and severe cases are women detained with many given access to outpatient counseling services or medical assisted treatment.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department says either way it is a Wisconsin-wide issue.

Director Liske Giese explained, “The data shows us that opioids are probably the biggest substance used by pregnant women in the state followed my methamphetamine and other illegal substances.”

The department says of the 1,200 babies born each year in Eau Claire County it supports any move that keeps them healthy and addiction free.

“The goal of the health department is always preventing problems,” said Giese. “The department wants to make sure women plan their pregnancies and to make sure pregnancies are supported all the way through.”

The health department says one of the best ways to ensure healthy pregnancies is to plan them if possible so mothers are less likely to abuse drugs, tobacco or alcohol.

The department says support groups for pregnant women facing addiction are also another option.