On September 10, Reproaction organized another informational picket outside of the 10th Street Comprehensive Treatment Center to raise awareness of the Unborn Child Protection Act (Act 292). Act 292 allows Wisconsin to accuse certain women of “unborn child abuse”. This means that the state can take certain pregnant women into custody, assign a lawyer for the embryo or fetus, and send the woman to drug treatment, hospitals, or jail – whether or not drug treatment is really needed. Wisconsin has accused hundreds of pregnant women of “unborn child abuse” under Act 292.
The 10th Street Comprehensive Treatment Center is a drug treatment center in Milwaukee that specializes in combating drug use with medication-assisted treatment for people ages 18 and older. We took direct action outside of this treatment center because the #WIFights292 campaign aims to center marginalized people who may be subject to enforcement of Act 292. In particular, low-income women, women of color, and drug-using women are especially vulnerable to the enforcement of Act 292.
I stood outside of the treatment center for about an hour, and distributed approximately 20 flyers to people entering and leaving the clinic. A handful of people stopped to talk about Act 292, and a few asked for flyers to give to people they knew. Many of the people entering and leaving the clinic paused to ask what I was handing out, and some paused to ask specific questions about the act itself. Overall, the reaction I got was confusion, followed by shock and disbelief after reading the flyer. A few people asked “Is this real? Is this really happening in Wisconsin?”
After starting up a conversation with a few people outside of the clinic, I was informed by a patient that many pregnant women who struggle with drug use come to the 10th Street Comprehensive Treatment Center for help. Another treatment center patient confided in me that she struggled with substance use during her pregnancy. Thankfully, she was not targeted by the enforcement of Act 292, and she was “very lucky” to be where she is now. She said that although she was not targeted by the enforcement of Act 292, she feared for her autonomy during her pregnancy, and was afraid that authorities would take her child away after birth due to past drug use.
All people who experience pregnancy, including pregnant women in Wisconsin, deserve access to appropriate, confidential health care without fear of losing their rights to medical decision making, privacy, and autonomy. Reproaction will continue to spread the word about the harm done through Act 292 until Wisconsin stops enforcing this dangerous law.