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ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Sheriff's Office Over Mandatory Inmate Pregnancy Tests

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern says the tests are used to help expedite the booking process for pregnant women or transfer them to another jail where there is an obstetrics and gynecology clinic.

By Bay City News—

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a lawsuit Monday against the Alameda County Sheriff's Office over a policy requiring all women booked into Alameda County jails who are younger than 60 to submit to a pregnancy test.

According to the lawsuit, women cannot refuse the testing. The policy even applies to women who will stay at the jail for only a few hours and women who cannot be pregnant. In a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, the group alleges that the policy "is both a violation of arrestees' constitutional rights and in violation of a state law, which says that every person, including those in the custody (of) California's prisons and jails, has the legal right to refuse medical care."
 
The ACLU said that a plaintiff in the lawsuit, Oakland resident Nancy Mancias was arrested during a political demonstration and forced to take a pregnancy test while held at a jail in Alameda County.
 
Plaintiff Susan Harman, at the age of 69, was also arrested at a political demonstration and was required to submit a pregnancy test at Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility, according to the lawsuit. A third plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, is also being represented in the lawsuit. Elizabeth Gill a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California said that mandatory pregnancy testing should be replaced with voluntary pregnancy tests.
 
Gill said that if the Alameda County Sheriff's Office "is genuinely concerned about the health of women in their custody, voluntary pregnancy testing should be administered as part of a comprehensive health exam. "Forcing a woman to take a pregnancy test is a clear violation of a person's constitutional rights, as well as a violation of other state law."
 
In a 2010 letter written by Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern addressed to the ACLU regarding the policy, he writes "Our accredited medical personnel conduct the pregnancy tests so that we can provide the essential medical necessities needed by pregnant women in our care and custody."
 
Ahern said the pregnancy test allows the staff to expedite the booking process for pregnant women or transfer them to another jail where there is an obstetrics and gynecology clinic.
 
The ACLU of Northern California filed the lawsuit in the Alameda County Superior Court Monday with pro bono assistance from the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP.
 
Christine Haskett, the attorney with Covington & Burling LLP who is representing the plaintiffs said, "Violating a woman's right to privacy like this is both unconstitutional and illogical, particularly as arrestees are not forced to take many other types of medical screening tests."
Desert Rat June 06, 2014 at 12:06 AM
Drugs are a choice Ken, those that choose them eventually pay the piper. A little personal responsibility goes a long way towards staying out of the cross bar hotel.
Ken Briggs June 06, 2014 at 12:29 AM
Desert Rat , so is having a baby , but still how many women at the age of 60 plus have kids ?
Matt June 06, 2014 at 10:49 AM
If this is the most egregious "violation" of civil rights the ACLU can latch onto, things must be pretty good these days.
Desert Rat June 06, 2014 at 05:16 PM
Well Ken, it seems you just don't get it. The test isn't about a 60 year old having a baby, it is about applying the policy across the board. And, I am guessing that they simply asked some medical professionals at what age does bearing children become nearly impossible. Since there are women in their 50's who have become pregnant, they probably chose 60 just to be safe as the cap. Wake up Ken, there is a bigger picture here. You are not seeing the forest for the trees, as usual.

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