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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Law to Detain Pregnant Alcoholics and Addicts, Mandating Treatment


November-December 1997

Legislation in Wisconsin, which would allow judges to detain pregnant alcoholics and drug addicts and force them to be treated for drug or alcohol abuse, has passed the state Assembly (Steven Walters, "`Coke mom' bill passed in assembly," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, November 20, 1997).

The bill (A.B. 463), which passed in a 69-27 vote and is known as the "cocaine mom bill," was drafted after pregnant women in Waukesha and Racine (WI) refused to get treatment for their addiction. The Racine woman bragged that she planned to drink until it killed her baby. Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) said that the law was necessary because in both cases the women "clearly did not care" what damage they might do to their fetuses. Under the bill, physicians and other medical professionals would have to report a pregnant woman who refused to stop abusing alcohol and drugs or be treated. The sponsor of the measure, State Rep. Bonnie Ladwig (R-Racine), said, "What we are doing is protecting the unborn baby." Ladwig's office told NewsBriefs that A.B. 463 will be referred to a Senate committee in January 1998.

Opponents of the bill say it would only punish those women by threatening them with a court hearing and detention because facilities for treatment already have long waiting lists. State Rep. Barbara Notestein (D-Milwaukee) predicted that many women would choose to have abortions to avoid a court hearing and detention. Treatment professionals and public health officials in Milwaukee and Madison also opposed the bill.

State Rep. Bonnie Ladwig - (608) 266-9171.