Advocacy Group Seeks Immediate Release of Involuntarily Detained Pregnant Woman

On Wednesday, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) announced a lawsuit has been filed in federal court seeking the immediate release from state custody of a pregnant Wisconsin woman who was involuntarily detained at a drug treatment facility despite no evidence she was using drugs while pregnant.

Alicia Beltran, a 28-year-old pregnant woman confided in health-care workers about her prior use of painkillers and her efforts to end that use on her own during an early prenatal care visit. On July 18, Wisconsin law enforcement officials arrested her under a 1997 Wisconsin law, which gives the state the power to forcibly detain any pregnant woman who “habitually lacks self-control” and poses a “substantial risk” to the health of an egg, embryo, or fetus.

As the petition explains, the law, Wisconsin Act 292, gives courts “original jurisdiction over fertilized eggs, embryos, and pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy where the pregnant woman ‘habitually lacks self-control’ in the use of alcohol or controlled substances ‘to a severe degree’ such that there is a ‘substantial risk’ that the health of the egg, embryo, fetus, or child upon birth will be ‘seriously affected.'” It continues:

On the basis of this jurisdiction, the State is empowered under the Act to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the “unborn child”; arrest the pregnant woman and place her in physical custody for the length of her pregnancy; subject the woman to involuntarily medical examinations, testing, and treatment; require the woman to stand trial for negligence with possible deleterious effects to her right to parent her child once born; and all without proper procedural safeguards or a sufficient government interest under all constitutional standards of review.

NAPW notes in its announcement of the lawsuit that Beltran “was forcibly taken into custody by law enforcement when she was 15 weeks pregnant, put into handcuffs and shackles, and brought to a court hearing. Although a lawyer had already been appointed to represent her fetus, Ms. Beltran had no right to counsel—and therefore had no attorney—at the initial court appearance. Then, without testimony from a single medical expert, the court ordered her to be detained at an inpatient drug treatment program two hours from her home.”

Attorney Linda Vanden Heuvel, who represents Beltran, explained in a statement that “[l]ocking up Ms. Beltran, under the Wisconsin law, does not serve the best interests of Ms. Beltran’s future child and most certainly tramples the rights of Ms. Beltran, a woman who was not in fact using any controlled substances at the time of her arrest and who is committed to having a healthy pregnancy.”

The petition “asserts violations of numerous constitutional rights, including the right to physical liberty, the right to due process notice, privacy in medical decision making, the right to carry a pregnancy to term, the right to have an abortion, the right to privacy in medical and personal information, the right to be free of illegal searches and cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to equal treatment under the law,” NAPW explains. It is supported by sworn statements from medical experts who conclude that Beltran’s arrest and detention “lacks medical justification and increases risks to the pregnancy.”

Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin all have laws that explicitly permit involuntarily detaining pregnant women alleged to have used alcohol or drugs, according to NAPW. Proceedings under these laws, which were all passed in the ’80s and ’90s with support of anti-choice organizations, are generally confidential. NAPW believes this to be the first constitutional challenge to such a law.

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  • fiona64

    It’s an anti-choice wet dream … “let’s lock up women ‘for their own safety’ until they deliver.” Can a return to coverture law be far behind?

    • LisaC

      It’s an anti-choice wet dream

      Well, that’s not really fair. If it were an anti-choice wet dream, her parental rights would have been terminated and a state-funded CPC would be lining up potential Christian adoptive parents who were willing to pay a $25K “placement fee” to the CPC’s sister adoption agency.

  • formerbuckeye

    The most frightening and appalling part of an overall horrifying situation is the fact that the *fetus* had a lawyer, but not the born, sentient woman carrying it.

    • jejune

      Angela Carders fetus also had a lawyer:

      At age thirteen, Angela Stoner was diagnosed with a rare and usually fatal form of cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma. Despite numerous doctors warning her of imminent death she survived. After years of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
      she was declared to be in remission. She got married and sought her
      doctor’s advice on whether she could become pregnant with her health
      history. Since her cancer had been in remission for several years, her
      obstetrician said to go ahead and get pregnant, which she did.

      In 1987, when Carder was twenty-six weeks pregnant, her cancer was
      discovered to have recurred and metastasized to her lung. Her initial
      plan was to begin radiation and chemotherapy immediately as she had been
      through too much already not to at least try to prolong her life,
      regardless of risks to the fetus. The doctors at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
      immediately gave Carder only days to live and disagreed with her choice
      to put her own life ahead of that of the fetus. Instead of treating the
      cancer, they ignored her protests and inserted an oral feeding tube
      into her and administered sedatives in an effort to delay her death and
      increase her fetus’ chance of continued development.

      Whatever her choice, the administrators of the hospital – who were
      also the liability risk managers – were concerned that she had not
      elected to have an immediate C-section. Fearing a lawsuit by aggressive pro-life
      activists, they convened a court hearing at the hospital and obtained
      separate counsels for Carder, her fetus, and the hospital. At the
      hearing, family members, including Carder’s husband, opposed the
      C-section on the grounds that she would be unlikely to survive it and
      that she would not want it (Carder herself, now gravely ill and heavily
      sedated, did not testify). Her treating physicians also opposed the
      procedure. However, a neonatologist not personally familiar with her
      medical status testified that the fetus would have at least a 60% chance
      of survival – nearly that of a healthy woman’s fetus at the same
      gestational age. Carder’s own long-term oncologist was not contacted; he
      has since stated that he would have called the procedure “medically
      inadvisable both for Angela Carder and for the fetus”.

      Nonetheless, and despite medical testimony that such a procedure
      would probably end Carder’s life, an order was issued authorizing the
      hospital to perform an immediate C-section. Obstetricians at the
      hospital initially refused to carry out the procedure, but eventually
      one reluctantly agreed. A three-judge appellate panel upheld the
      decision in an emergency telephone appeal, despite Carder’s own repeated
      pleas of “I don’t want it done.”

      Exactly how long the fetus survived is a matter of some dispute; the most commonly cited figure is two hours. Susan Faludi
      quotes the obstetrician who performed the surgery as saying attempts to
      inflate the fetus’s lungs were “like trying to ventilate a rock”.

      Angela Carder was informed of her baby’s death and survived her
      surgery for two days before lapsing into a coma and dying thereafter.”

      • formerbuckeye

        I wasn’t aware of this case. Thank you very much for the information!

        • HeilMary1

          I remember this case. WaPo and local TV stations covered it for days.

      • cjvg

        In my opinion this case has been one of the most egregious human rights violations recently in this country!

        For inexplicable reasons there never was much of an outcry about the fact that these doctors made sure to incapacitated her with heavy sedation so she could not even leave and seek the treatment she wanted and needed in another hospital (I believe under the law this is considered a kidnapping. Apparently there is one exception to the law, and that is if you are a pregnant female)

        A fully aware woman was denied even her basic human right to (defend her) life and no one, absolutely no one even attempted to pass a law ensuring this atrocity will never happen again!

        • jejune


          And all that effort to kill a woman AND her baby.


          • jejune

            From the article:

            “Fearing a lawsuit by aggressive pro-life activists”

            The doctors killed this woman because they were afraid of pro-lifers. Pro-lifers, in the end, were responsible for her death.

          • cjvg

            I don’t believe that is even a very good argument from the hospital (I think there was a pro-lifer in admin. there making their own assessment of who’s life they found more important to save).
            I believe that under the law the hospital with support from the patient herself and her family could easily dismiss these attempts by arguing that these groups would have no standing to sue.

            Either way since when is legal to share the medical history of a patient with unrelated third parties without medical training, and if they did not, how would a pro-life group be aware of this case and sue (that is why I think there was a pro-life faction in that hospital admin. threatening a suit if this woman was not forced into a C section)

            Also how can this unrelated third party who is not treating her dictate what kind of life saving treatments a private person can receive without even knowing the medical file, or having made a formal request to see her medical file (justification?) and then be allowed to overrule the perfectly normal legally available treatments the person requests?!

            Also, did they really think the patient and/or her family would NOT sue for withholding critically important time-constraint life saving treatment from her?!
            I think the hospital was just scrambling to justify their completely inhumane and very troubling decision to usurp ownership of this woman’s right to make medical decisions over her own body and life!
            I do know that it would be an enormous red flag to me, I would never enter that hospital as a patient for any reason!

            I do know that any woman who is not currently pregnant can not sue to have an anti-choice law stopped because she will be suffering no damages. The courts use this argument all the time to throw out these suits by women, it would stand to reason that it should (I know logic, reason, justice and anti-choice are not very close!) go both ways!

            I can attempt to sue for damages if someone who has no relationship whatsoever, is an absolute stranger and is completely unrelated to me dies from medical neglect but I do not have any grounds so that would and should be dismissed before it gets anywhere at all. These pro-life groups should not have any legal right to access her medical files, and without those how would they make a case for medical neglect of the fetus, also how can they can argue damages from the death of her fetus?

            I don’t think the hospital was ever honest here!

          • jejune


          • colleen2

            I completely agree with you….thanks for writi8ng all that out. The wiki ‘story’ did not make sense as it was ‘pro-life’ doctors who killed this woman. If anything the hospital should have been concerned about legal action from appropriate sources like her family and the ACLU. Sometimes pro-lifers edit wiki. Notice tat edit contains no link to corroborating evidence for the claim but, rather, a link to pro-life propaganda. That’s just the religious right hoping we won’t notice that they kill women.

          • cjvg

            Well to late for that, regardless of what they think most women are very capable of logic and reasoning.
            Maybe because the anti-choice faction has such trouble with that themselves they just can not comprehend that women (who are lesser beings in their opinion) have not much trouble with this at all.

            Maybe that is why they always get to abusive and resort to name calling and belittlement every time the fallacies in their “arguments” are exposed within minutes of posting them (and usually by multiple reply’s)

          • jejune

            There is this one moron that fiona Jennifer and I have been ‘debating’ over on Patheos, and this dumb twit keeps saying that Transvaginal ultrasounds are necessary because women are lied to by their LIBERAL friends who tell them that an embryo isn’t a cute little baby.

          • Jennifer Starr

            Even after we tell her that the majority of women who have abortions have already had children. Sigh.

          • cjvg

            Those are the ones who do not really want to engage or have any form of debate including reason, science, facts or honesty!
            Do not bother with this filth, they just want to see their own lectures in print. They feel that they are accomplishing something if they can force pro-choice people to point out the lies and obvious fallacies in their “facts”

            It gives them a hard on to see pro-choicers work very hard to explain the undeniable sentient humanity of a woman versus their very questionable and not provable assertions of sentient humanity of a fetus.

            The anti-choice-women-are-breeding-vessel-to-be-used-faction loves to see us exert our self supplying them with all the irrefutable science and undeniable morality of granting a woman full reproductive rights, only to then slap us down with their arrogant certainty in claiming ” that might be so but you are still wrong and my believes trumps reality and facts”

            I try not to play their game anymore, I and you and Fiona, Jennifer etc are to good for these proto humans!
            They do not possess the intellectual and moral honesty to be worthy off any effort from ethical inclined humans.
            In general I now refute their obvious lies, straiten out the science and inform them that they are just to irrelevant to bother with!

          • jejune

            Yeah, whenever we present this one with something she can’t rebut, she falls back on:

            unborn babies deserve to life
            women who abort are selfish
            it’s all me me me me with you people

            She has admitted that: she would force her daughter, if raped by a pedophile at the age of 8 or younger, to give birth – even if it caused her to go blind. Her daughter could only be allowed an abortion if she was gonna die

            She has admitted that she would be ok with a little bit of infanticide if it meant millions of abortions would be banned every year

            And when I explained antebellum slavery to her, and told her how the female slaves often aborted their forced pregnancies, and asked her if these women were more evil than the slave owners, and how much jail time they should have recieved, she came back with: “killiing your unborn child is just about the most horrific crime’

            Oh, and she won’t gestate an ivf embryo. She keeps talking about the precious gift of life, but, she won’t do it

            Why? Because it’s the PARENTS job. You know, just like a rape victim is a ‘parent’ once she’s been forcibly impregnated.

            She told me that she would gestate someone else’s ivf embryo if FORCIBLY impregnated with it, and that she’d even go blind and accept other disabilities however, i think she’s lying to appear consistent.

            She is one of those’ the only moral abortion is my abortion’ types.

          • cjvg

            Those are the ones I do not debate anymore (most of the time, unless i’am absolutely so livid I can not see straight anymore)

            I refuse to dirty my brain with reading the amoral and revolting writings of such filth.

            I’m not jesus and do not feel compelled to over them salvation of their evil, all I will do against them is to do my best to ensure their depravity and world view will not control the rest of us!

            As for her lies about forcing her daughter, if seen plenty of them sneaking in for abortions when I volunteered.

          • jejune

            No, you don’t wanna go there. You will just want to smash things.

            However, could use your assistance over here since you’ve been around lately.

            i was going to cut and paste your lectures on fetal development but I figure eh, why not let you do it.

            This guy is an ignorant asshat, and he thinks that he has ‘proof’ from embryologists that a zygote is a homonculus.

            Please, put on your best condescending face, if you do choose to teach him:)

          • cjvg

            Who is it, albert?
            I have smacked him around several times on alternet already.
            He usually just leaves throwing down some crap that I must respect his opinion although he has no respect for others!

          • jejune

            Yes, Albert.


            So you’ve explained embryology and fetal development to him already…yet he still goes around insisting that pregnancy starts at conception?

            What a moron.

          • cjvg

            Well there is reality, and there is the magical a-blastocell-is-just-like-a-woman baby land that anti-choicers inhabit.

            At the borders of this land all science, reality and reason must be left behind and the use of factual evidence is reason for permanent banishment from this magical country.

          • jejune

            This is your kickass lecture that I haul out occasionally. I LOVE the snarky aspects of it, but I take them out and just post the science. What I love the most about your lecture is that you quoted scientists who are often mis-quoted by pro-lifers:P

            “Are you willfully ignorant or are you just that uneducated about fetal development ?
            Either way, you need to educate yourself before you take the liberty to make decisions for others based on false, or just flat out misleading statements.

            Your glib and unsupported statements clearly will not hold up to any sort of scrutiny from an unbiased and educated mind.
            I will give you the benefit of the doubt and presume that you are just plain uneducated so I will spell out reality of fetal development and the development of sentience and awareness to you.

            A brain-dead person with a functioning heart/lungs/brain stem
            will still show electrical activity in the brain, but they won’t show the
            particular “brainwaves” that are characteristic of the higher
            cortical functions of cognition. So the whole EEG isn’t “flat”, just
            the part of the EEG profile that shows a thinking person is using that brain tissue.

            (A better description would be the more scientific exactitude of “clinical significant electrical brain activity” to avoid confusion.)

            At this point no “person” with sentience or awareness is present in
            the body, and it is legal to discontinue life support, and harvest organs for transplant, as without a functioning brain the body is just a collection of tissue.

            People who are diagnosed as clinically brain dead are routinely disconnected from life support and used to provide the organs for transplantations (no murder charges have ever been filled for this and none ever will be)
            A fetus does not have the bilaterally synchronous electroencephalographic patterns in the cortical area of the brain
            to be considered alive until 26-30 weeks of gestation, exactly like those who are diagnosed as clinically brain dead by physicians.

            People who are considered clinically brain-dead, have brainwaves (and sometimes even a beating heart), just not in the part of the brain that means that they are still alive.
            At this point doctors can start organ harvesting or turn off life support, no murder charges have ever, or will ever be been filed.

            A fetus younger then 26-30 weeks does not have all the brain structure (cortex) or the synapse, neurons etc in place to show more brain activity then a person who is clinically brain dead, as measured with the same machine (EEG)
            The heart might beat, but nobody is home.

            No embryo or fetus has ever been found to have “brain
            waves,” before 26-30 weeks gestation, although extensive EEG studies have been done on premature babies.

            In fact a fetus does not have a functional cortex before
            20-24 weeks gestation, no neurons, dendrites, and axons, with synapses between them are physically present.
            (Pretty hard to show activity in a structure that is not even present yet)

            Since these requirements are not present in the human cortex before 20-24 weeks of gestation, it is not possible to record the clinical significant electrical brain activity indicative of any form sentience and awareness prior to 20-24 weeks. (at that point the cerebral cortex can display some small intermittent non synchronous activity (“stutter”)
            This is not surprising since it is pretty hard to show activity in a brain structure that is not even present yet.

            Functional maturity of the cerebral cortex is suggested by fetal and neonatal electroencephalographic patterns, bilaterally synchronous
            electroencephalograpic are ONLY seen at a minimum of 26 to 29 weeks gestation.

            Studies used are;
            -Hamlin,H. (1964), “Life or Death by EEG,”Journal of the American
            Medical Association, October 12,113
            -J. Goldenring, “Development of the Fetal Brain,” New England Jour. of Med., Aug. 26, 1982, p. 564
            -K.J.S. Anand, a leading researcher on pain in newborns, and P.R. Hickey, published in NEJM

            So until the fetus has the same level of clinical brain activity
            (first seen at 26-29 weeks gestation, well after abortion becomes unavailable) as the woman in question, it is very dishonest (to say the least) to award the fetus more human rights then the woman.

            “human beings at any stage of development are persons”
            This clearly illustrates that you consider a single cell organism as just as much a person as the woman.
            That whole concept is incredibly ludicrous to anyone who has ever taken the time to look at a woman and at a fertilized egg!

            So up to the 26 week point the only actual person involved
            is the woman, the fetus just has the potential to eventually become equally a person like the mother already is.

            You do not have the right to mandate that another woman should have her body used for the benefit of a third person.
            What makes you believe it is alright to violate her human and civil rights to the sanctity of her own body for a potential life that has not even manifested yet?!”


            When I use it in the future, would you like me to credit you and if so how? I hesitate to say ‘friend of mine’ or ‘cjvg’ because I’ll just be accused of spreading pro-abortion lies from compatriots!

          • cjvg

            It is just knowledge, free to use as you would like.
            If you where a student or junior researcher of mine I would absolutely have expected you to use the training and information you accumulated (through your own efforts I might add)
            We all learn from others, knowledge should never be hoarded.
            This is not an excerpt out of a thesis or a report I authored, this is a personal observation that was never formally published and most certainly will not need to be accredited to me.
            After all I was not the one who did the studies that I use (please do accredit those, they constitute much work, and their livelihood on the researchers part)
            I do very much appreciate the heads up, it can be somewhat surprising to see your own words from a source you did not expect it from!
            Again feel free to use any and all “lectures” (either in its entire or partially) I have out there however you feel it is needed.
            I’am a retired medical/neurological researcher who worked all levels of research (lab to human pre-consumer trails) with mycology, virology, chemistry, bio-chem, physics and biology degrees
            Of importance to these particular subjects is that I did plenty of neurological research the function and anatomy of the human brain (Alzheimer’s, migraines, sleep disorders, epilepsy, pain syndromes studies etc as well as multiple other areas of human biology), You can call me a friend I would be much honored, thank you.
            Excuse me if this was too formal, due to my profession and cultural background I to tend to be more formal then Americans and also more likely to fall into lecture mode.
            However you credit it or not, will not make much difference to them, they will just claim it is faulty.

          • jejune


            Speaking of knowledge, are you familiar with this:


            Proof that pregnancy really is NOT healthy for the woman. That fetal-maternal conflict is pre-determined by the father’s genes, which ‘want’ a big, healthy fetus.

          • cjvg

            Yes I have read this study before, but not this particular blog!
            This is one of the best explanations I have read on why human babies are so out sized
            No other (large) animal produces babies who’s sheer size poses such risks to the mother.
            Thank you for introducing me to this.

          • jejune

            Genetic imprinting.

            The mother’s body tries to dampen it, while the father’s genes try to make it as big as possible.

            If the mother’s genes fail to dampen it, it grows out of control and turns into a cancer. If her genes dampen it too much, you get miscarriages.

            Also related:


          • MaiaDoe

            “killiing your unborn child is just about the most horrific crime’

            Worse than killing your newborn?
            Only confirms that lifers care only until umbilical cord is cut.

            Even if we accept the idea that fetus = baby, I can imagine gazillion of worse crimes. Because, if nothing else, abortion is fast.

          • jejune

            Yeah, she just told me this weekend that she would prefer a little bit of infanticide to a lot of abortion,.

          • jejune

            Second person btw, who told me that a little bit of infanticide is superior to abortion.

            This guy was a catholic, and he said that a ‘little bit of infanticide is preferable to the 8million babies aborted every year in China.’

          • lady_black

            An embryo is most certainly not a cute little baby.

          • cjvg

            The anti-choice faction knows they are and will kill women with their policies, however they never really thought women are people anyway.
            In their opinion women arte below humans and it is their right to use them as they see fit (kind off how they think of animals)

          • Kelly S

            nah, the cowardly doctors are. wo/man the fuck up, christ.

      • HeilMary1

        Here is another case of cancer probably being triggered by pregnancy. And yet fetal idolaters claim the opposite — that pregnancies “fight cancer”, never mind that in the next sentence, fetal idolaters will then claim bc pills “cause cancer”!

        • MaiaDoe

          Pregnancy makes you young, healthy, skinny, rich, educated, fights cancer, AIDS, diabetes, depression, psoriasis, bipolar disorder, scoliosis, eating disorders, it makes your hair shiny, boobs big, legs long, nails firm, stomach flat, teeth white and household tidy.

          Just recently someone informed me that depression after abortion is very common, actually, it happens every time, while no one ever (like… never in history of mankind) was depressed due to childbirth. I did not know before.

          • lady_black

            Have her explain Andrea Yates.

  • doctorscience

    Is she white? She’s from Jackson County, which is *mostly* white, so she probably is, but this is America and race is always the first question.

    • cjvg

      She was white

  • MaiaDoe

    “which gives the state the power to forcibly detain any pregnant woman who “habitually lacks self-control” and poses a “substantial risk” to the health of an egg, embryo, or fetus.”
    Well, if you live in Wisconsin and have an abortion, you have good reason to present: “well, my lifestyle is unhealthy, and I lack the willpower to change it, and it is illegal for pregnant women, so I cannot be pregnant, you see?”. Then sue the state for “forcing you to abort”.

    • cjvg

      That would be priceless, to bad pro-choice people have just to much respect for life to use women and fetus’s in that manner

  • Shan

    Well, isn’t this just the perfect incentive for pregnant women to seek help with substance-abuse problems?

    Yes, that was my sarcastic voice. This is more likely to cause pregnant women to AVOID getting prenatal care if they DO have substance-abuse problems because they’ll be afraid of being locked up. A completely lose-lose situation for pregnant women AND their unborn children.

  • Brenda Cook

    Gee maybe we should start hiring lawyers for the all the tiny unborn foetuses under threat of abortion!!.

    • Jennifer Starr

      Lawyers for the actual living woman who has the right to make a decision about her own pregnancy.

    • colleen2

      go for it.

    • jejune

      You should start spending your money on that right now.

      In fact, why don’t you make a ‘citizens arrest’ when you see a woman walking into a PP clinic?

      That should teach them.

    • Amanda Kazarian

      Actually you should spend $$ on the 400,000 children in foster care. Finish your drink before you refill your glass.

  • lady_black

    I would just have an abortion.

  • Jennifer Jonsson

    Somebody please tell me if Alicia Beltran is still “detained.”

  • Kelly S

    only a sociopath could believe a fetus that cannot live on its own, much less TALK TO A LAWYER, is a person with rights yet an adult woman is not.

  • Jennifer Jonsson

    Seriously, this petition was filed on September 27. That was over a week ago. When is the hearing? Why can’t I find it on PACER?

  • Jennifer Jonsson

    Thank you thank you thank you!!

  • Miss Demeanor

    Just wondering how long it will be before the Handmaid’s Tale becomes a reality for American women.

  • dagobarbz

    There’s another reason to refuse to bear the next generation and deliver them unto the hands of assclowns like these.

    Treating women as incubators and violating their rights as citizens is unacceptable.