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Women are being jailed in the US without conviction to 'protect' unborn children

Rachel Lang

| Last updated 

Women are being jailed in the US without conviction to 'protect' unborn children

American women are being left in legal limbo, pregnant and languishing in prison, due to an obscure law in one US state that has the court system detaining them indefinitely without charge.

Alabama woman Ashley Banks, 23, was jailed indefinitely after police found out she had smoked marijuana the day she found out she was pregnant, AL.com reports.

She spent the next three months sleeping on the floor of the Etowah County Detention Centre despite her high-risk pregnancy.

Back in 2013, the state's chemical endangerment law was interpreted to protect foetuses.

Therefore, women who test positive for drugs while pregnant in Etowah County can be held indefinitely until they attend a drug rehab facility. They also need to cough up $10,000 to the county in cash bail.

In Banks' case, no rehab facility would accept her as she wasn't an addict. The state refused to accept her $10,000 bail to release her as she had not secured a spot at a rehab facility.

Credit: Rawf8 / Alamy
Credit: Rawf8 / Alamy

She was assessed by specialists twice and was twice found to not meet the threshold to require rehab.

The circle of legal limbo went round and round until on August 25, three months after she was incarcerated, the 23-year-old was released after a successful petition to a judge.

She had spent the last five weeks of her pregnancy bleeding and had suffered from hunger and fainting spells.

But this isn't the only time a woman in Alabama has been jailed indefinitely because she was pregnant.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) attorney Emma Roth, told AL.com that a number of other women should be released from the same jail in Etowah County.

APW researchers discovered that more than 150 women had been detained under the same chemical endangerment law since 2010.

AL.com revealed that seven pregnant or postpartum women have been logged into the jail system between April and August 2022.

Credit: Andrey Zhuravlev / Alamy
Credit: Andrey Zhuravlev / Alamy

Hali Burns, a mother of two, was arrested six days after the birth of her newborn son.

She had taken a medication used to treat pregnant women with opioid use disorder.

She is now challenging the results of the tests that landed her in jail, with her lawyers claiming that her sinus medication triggered false positive results for methamphetamine. She had a prescription for the other medications flagged in her drug test, AL.com reports.

Prosecutors dispute her claims, but neither a judge or a jury are yet to examine the evidence pertaining to her case.

Burns remains in jail, more than two months after her arrest while she was visiting her newborn son in neonatal intensive care.

Featured Image Credit: LAW AND CRIMES by VISION / Alamy . Picturebank / Alamy.

Topics: US News, Crime, Parenting, News

Rachel Lang
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