On March 12, 2014, the Wisconsin Pregnancy Protection legislation, a series of three proposed bills, was introduced into the Wisconsin Assembly. The bills have underlying factual histories which are addressed by the Assembly legislation.
In Texas, a hospital originally refused to remove a pregnant woman from life support, even though the women was brain dead and had previously advised her family that she did not want to be kept alive on life support. Assembly Bill 861 protects a pregnant woman’s advanced medical directives so that pregnant women receive the same protections and respect as any other patient. According to State Representative Therese Berceau (D-Madison), “Pregnant women are not second-class citizens and deserve the same rights as everyone else. Major medical decisions, such as advanced directives, are very personal decisions that should be left up to an individual and her family, not politicians.” This bill addresses a pregnant woman’s right to execute advanced medical directives and to have those medical directives have force and effect. This bill requires any person, male and female, to give advance, serious consideration to all of the terms of an advanced medical directive!
Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) authored Assembly Bill 860 which provides pregnant women, who allegedly use drugs during pregnancy, the immediate right to counsel before being detained. Attorney Linda S. Vanden Heuvel represented Alicia Beltran in the cases of The Interest of J. Doe Beltran, unborn child, Alicia F. Beltran, expectant mother, Washington County Circuit Court Case No. 13-JC-30A and Alicia Beltran v. Jamie Loenish, et al., United States District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin, Case No. 2:13-cv-01101-AEG. Alicia Beltran scheduled her first prenatal visit with a West Bend, Wisconsin, doctor. She advised the doctor that she had previously used drugs, but had stopped using those drugs. As a result of a perceived mandatory reporting obligation, Alicia Beltran was arrested, handcuffed, shackled and jailed, and denied a right to an attorney before her detention for past use of drugs, which could allegedly harm the unborn fetus. While Alicia Beltran was unrepresented and denied legal representation, her unborn child was provided with a Guardian ad Litem to represent its interests. Alicia Beltran was ordered to remain at a rehabilitation facility for 78 days. “Women don’t surrender their legal rights upon becoming pregnant,” said Linda Vanden Heuvel. “Pregnant women accused of using drugs must be represented by counsel before being detained against their will.” In the Beltran case, litigation was necessary to make sure that the mother, Alicia Beltran, was afforded the same right to counsel that was automatically provided to her unborn child.
Also included in the Pregnancy Protection Package is an overall non-discrimination proposal, Assembly Joint Resolution 111, which provides, “that pregnant women be afforded all the rights of non-pregnant people.” Women are not second class citizens when they become pregnant. They should be provided the same legal rights as any other person.
Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. will monitor the Pregnancy Protection Package as it proceeds through the Wisconsin State Legislature. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Attorney Linda S. Vanden Heuvel at 252-250-1976 or 1-800-805-1976.