On October 9, I had the opportunity to talk about Reproaction’s #WIFights292 campaign during Professor Charmaine Lang’s Africology 100 class at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. As a UW-Milwaukee alumni, I was eager to explain to my fellow Panthers how continued enforcement of Wisconsin’s Unborn Child Protection Act (Act 292) harms pregnant people and threatens our communities.
I introduced students to Reproaction by sharing our mission, how we take action, and our five core competencies. Next, I discussed Act 292, otherwise known as the “cocaine mom law.” I briefly talked about the history of Act 292 and how it became law in 1998 by promoting fear about cocaine use and pregnancy. Then, I got to the details: how Act 292 allows Wisconsin to accuse certain women of “unborn child abuse”; how the state can take certain pregnant women into custody, assign a lawyer for the embryo or fetus, and lock the woman up in drug treatment, mental hospitals, or jail – regardless of if drug use is really an issue. Students responded to that information with a mixture of astonishment and confusion. A few looked outraged.
I then told the class about the case of Tammy Loertscher, a woman accused of “unborn child abuse” in Wisconsin in 2014. I showed a video about her case created by National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), a nonprofit working to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all people, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most likely to be targeted for state control and punishment – low income women, women of color, and drug-using women. We are proud to partner with National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) on the #WIFights292 campaign. The class was laser-focused on a video created by NAPW and visibly reacted to Tammy telling her own story. Tammy refused unnecessary drug treatment, was reported to social services for “unborn child abuse,” and was later jailed for 18 days, including three days in solitary confinement.
I also showed the class NAPW’s video detailing Alicia Beltran’s horrifying arrest, neglect, and legal journey in Wisconsin as a result of enforcement of Act 292. Because of Act 292, Alicia was forced into a 90-day drug treatment program when she went to the doctor for prenatal care, even though she was not using drugs. Again, the class visibly reacted with disbelief and shock. To wrap up the presentation, I talked about goal of the #WIFights292 Campaign: to educate the public about and stop enforcement of Act 292 through direct action, community engagement, and empowering pregnant people in Wisconsin.
The class was bursting with questions about the #WIFights292 campaign, the “crack baby” myth, and more. I got a mixture of questions – some students were doubtful of the myth about the “crack baby,” and shared that the “drug addicted baby” was something they grew up hearing about through popular media. Others wanted to know more about the campaign and many asked follow up questions about the enforcement of Act 292 on pregnant women in Wisconsin, what actions we had coming up in Milwaukee, and where they could get more information.
It was an honor to discuss the dangers of Act 292 with my fellow Panthers at UW-Milwaukee. Reproaction will continue empowering Wisconsinites to fight back against reproductive oppression through the #WIFights292 campaign.