In response to the recent release of heavily-edited videos by a right-wing smear group as part of a political witchhunt against Planned Parenthood, Wisconsin Republicans are pushing to enact an outright ban on the use of tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research.
Make no mistake about it, banning fetal tissue from being used in medical research would be disastrous, not just for Wisconsin, but the entire country. Not only would Wisconsin lose jobs if this legislation were to be enacted, the entire country would lose out on research, conducted by the University of Wisconsin System, that seeks to find cures for serious ailments like Parkinson’s disease, heart defects, various forms of cancer, and multiple sclerosis, just to name a few. This would make it far more difficult for researchers to find cures for serious ailments that affect millions of people in this country. I don’t think that there are any colleges or universities outside of Wisconsin that do medical research with fetal tissue, but I could be wrong about that.
The right-wing political witchhunt against Planned Parenthood and other pro-women groups is incredibly short-sighted. In Wisconsin, the right-wing witchhunt against Planned Parenthood has officially turned into a full-on attack against sick people and medical research.
The Women’s Care Clinic of Danville (WCC), a crisis pregnancy center located in Danville, Illinois, which is located in Vermilion County, posted pictures of the sonogram of a pregnant woman’s fetus on their Facebook page and stated that the woman had scheduled an abortion and wanted people to pray that the woman would change her mind and not had the pregnancy terminated.
WCIA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Champaign, ran a segment on one of their local newscasts earlier today calling WCC out for violating patient privacy. While I’m not going to directly link to the article about this story on their website, illinoishomepage.net, as the online article includes a video that shows the sonogram in question, and it would be unethical for me to post or link to anything containing the sonogram in question, this is from their online article, titled “Clinic’s post causes privacy concerns” and dated February 11, 2015:
A picture of an unborn baby is causing controversy online. An area clinic posted what leaders say was a picture from a patient’s sonogram. It’s raising the issue of privacy. The clinic took the post down the same day it went up.
The Women’s Care Clinic of Danville says the image was removed because comments were “too negative.” The post shows a sonogram picture stating the baby’s mother had scheduled an abortion and asked people to pray she would change her mind.
But, clinic managers say they don’t know if the picture is an actual sonogram from the patient mentioned in the post. They say they didn’t identify who it was, so it wasn’t an invasion of privacy, adding clients agree any images can be used for promotion or education.
WCIA’s online article went on to describe WCC as an organization that “provides counseling and support groups for post-abortion” and that WCC stated that “asking for prayers for certain clients” is normal operating procedure for them.
Here’s my thoughts about this:
WCIA used a considerable amount of anti-abortion framing in their TV report about the WCC posting a sonogram online, which is not surprising given the fact that WCIA’s local newscasts have a heavy right-wing bias. For example, “Picture of an unborn baby” is not the medically correct term for a sonogram of a fetus; “sonogram of a fetus” is the medically correct term for that. Also, the reason why comments on WCC’s Facebook page got “too negative” is because WCC operates in a highly unethical manner, and those who made “negative” comments on their Facebook page were rightfully criticizing them for operating in a highly unethical manner.
WCIA is just as guilty as WCC is of violating patient privacy since they showed the sonogram, both on television and online, in fact, one could argue that WCIA is even more guilty of violating patient privacy than WCC is, since I’m guessing that a local newscast on WCIA has a considerably larger audience than WCC’s Facebook page, even though WCIA is located in what I’d call a medium-small local TV market.
While WCIA didn’t explicitly refer to WCC as a “crisis pregnancy center”, they did mention that WCC regularly asks people to pray that their patients who are considering whether or not to have an abortion decide not to terminate a pregnancy and offer post-abortion counseling, which is a huge indicator to me that WCC is a crisis pregnancy center, regardless of whether or not they refer to themselves as such. Crisis pregnancy centers are organizations that claim to be legitimate women’s health clinics, when, in reality, they’re actually organizations that are primarily set up to shame pregnant women by, among other tactics, doing everything possible to discourage pregnant women who want to have abortions from getting abortions and spreading false information about women’s reproductive health. While I don’t know if WCC is doing the latter, it’s obvious to me that they’re doing the former.
Regardless of whether or not the names of patients are disclosed, it’s still highly unethical and an invasion of medical privacy for a women’s health clinic of any kind to publicly post sonograms or other types of medical records for promotional purposes.
Every effort should be made to shut down these unethical, woman-shaming crisis pregnancy centers across the country and make legitimate women’s health clinics available in areas of this country where women would currently have to travel long distances in order to get to a legitimate women’s health clinic.
In Wisconsin, pregnant women are treated like second-class citizens. Republicans, who control Wisconsin’s state government, have enacted numerous laws that, among other things, require pregnant women who wish to have an abortion undergo an ultrasound regardless if they want or need an ultrasound or not and cut public funding to women’s health clinics.
However, arguably the worst piece of anti-abortion legislation that has been enacted in recent years in Wisconsin is the so-called “Cocaine Mom Law” (officially 1997 Wisconsin Act 292), enacted in 1998, that allows Wisconsin officials to arrest, detain, and imprison pregnant women for up to the duration of their pregnancies if said officials believe that the pregnant woman is abusing substances, such as alcohol and other drugs, to the point that the egg, embryo, fetus, or child upon birth will be “seriously affected”. In effect, Act 292 gives fetuses more legal rights than pregnant women.
According to Loertscher and her attorneys, unbeknownst to her, as hospital workers were preparing a prescription to treat Loertscher’s thyroid condition, they were also initiating unborn child protection proceedings on behalf of Loertscher’s then 14-week-old fetus.
Loertscher and her attorneys claim that within days of Loertscher seeking care, hospital workers had already turned over Loerstcher’s hospital records to the state without Loerstcher’s knowledge or consent. They also claim that with those records in hand, state officials filed a petition accusing Loerstcher of abuse of an unborn child and held a hearing in which the state had appointed an attorney, known as a guardian ad litem, for the 14-week-old fetus, but granted Loerstcher no meaningful representation.
At the hearing, Loertscher and her attorneys allege she was ordered by the court into in-patient treatment even though she had not used drugs recently and voluntarily sought medical care. When Loerstcher refused to go to in-patient treatment, she was held in contempt of court and sent to jail, where she was held for 17 days without prenatal care and subject to abuse and harassment.
“This was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Loerstcher told reporters. “I was having lots of cramping and a lot of stress from everything and they [jail officials] wouldn’t allow me to see the doctor. They told me I would have to see a jail-appointed doctor who told me she wanted me to take a pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy even though that’s why I was in jail, because I was pregnant. They knew that’s why I was there.”
Loerstcher claims she refused the pregnancy test, and in response, correction officials put her in solitary confinement and threatened to use a taser on her. “The jail doctor told me if I chose to miscarry, there wasn’t anything they could do about it anyways,” Loertscher said through tears.
In order to be released from jail, Loertscher had to sign a consent decree agreeing to additional drug tests, so she remains under state custody to some extent, her lawyer said.
Even worse, despite the fact that she was never tried or convicted of child abuse, Tamara Loerstcher will appear on Wisconsin’s child abuse registry for the remainder of her life unless this is overturned on appeal.
To summarize, Wisconsin officials jailed Tamara Loerstcher, granted her then-14 week old fetus legal counsel but refused to grant her any meaningful legal representation, took her medical records from the hospital without her knowledge or consent, ordered by a court into in-patient treatment despite not needing in-patient treatment and not having been tried or convicted of substance abuse, held in contempt of court and jailed for 17 days without prenatal care, subjected to abuse and harassment while jailed, forced her to take a pregnancy test despite her pregnancy having been already confirmed, and even threatened to use a taser on her while jailed. How Tamara Loerstcher was treated by the legal system in Wisconsin is some of the most barbaric treatment of someone I’ve ever seen in my entire life, in fact, Loerstcher’s story is so shocking, I’ve had nightmares about it. Her constitutional rights were repeatedly violated, she was not granted due process of law, and she was effectively convicted of child abuse without a trial. Sadly, Loerstcher isn’t the only one who has had her constitutional rights violated by Wisconsin’s Act 292.
I hope that Tamara Loerstcher gives birth to a healthy child in a few weeks (she is expecting to have a son) and that her name is cleared by the legal system.