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Of note: This week we highlight a two-story package by Wisconsin Watch’s Phoebe Petrovic examining Wisconsin’s “fetal protection” law, which gives authorities the power to detain pregnant people if they suspect drug or alcohol use. Like other similar laws, Wisconsin’s was passed in the 1990s amid public hysteria over so-called “cocaine moms.” Later research found that in utero drug use had no measurable long-term effect on children’s development — despite warnings that these “crack babies” were destined to become a “bio-underclass.”

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Wisconsin is one of just five states in the country that allows civil detention for pregnant people accused of drug or alcohol use.  (Tommy Washbush)

Policing pregnancy: Wisconsin law, one of the most punitive in the nation, forces women into treatment – or jail

Wisconsin Watch — December 1, 2022

Pregnant and despondent, Tamara Loertscher arrived at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on Aug. 1, 2014. But while she had checked herself in, she could not check herself out. The county had put a “hold” on her under suspicion that Loertscher was using drugs — an allegation she denied.

Related story from Wisconsin Watch: Wisconsin’s law on substance use in pregnancy is wrong, leading doctors say

Dezy is an unaccompanied minor living in Janesville. Photographed in a park playing the violin, she is one of many Wisconsin minors unable to get most physical and mental health care without the permission or parents or guardians. (Angela Peterson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) 

Minors in Wisconsin need approval for physical, mental care. What if their parents refuse?

Green Bay Press-Gazette — December 1, 2022

Under Wisconsin law, minors do not have the right to physical or mental health care, with the exception of limited substance abuse treatment and reproductive health care, without the signature of a parent or guardian. They can’t get prescriptions. There is no legal process governing emancipation, the equivalent of divorce from parents.

A reverse osmosis filtration system is seen under the kitchen sink of town of Campbell, Wis., supervisor Lee Donahue on July 20, 2022. (Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch)

What should I do about PFAS in my water?

Wisconsin Watch — November 21, 2022

What can you do if you have PFAS in your water? The answer is complicated. Here’s what to know about navigating threats from so-called forever chemicals.

Related story from the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk and Wisconsin Watch: Midwest river towns seek answers after 3M factory taints water with PFAS

Lourdes Godinez, a bilingual navigator based at Centro Hispano of Dane County and subcontractor with Covering Wisconsin, helps residents with health insurance issues during an outreach event. (Photo courtesy of Covering Wisconsin)

Confused about health insurance during open enrollment? A navigator can help.

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service — November 30, 2022

Meet Quentella Perry, who helps people plow through the complexities while working for Covering Wisconsin, a nonprofit based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that educates people about health insurance and helps them choose a plan under the Affordable Care Act.

No longer the fringe: Small-town voters fear for America

Associated Press — November 30, 2022

For some people in rural Wisconsin, America is a dark and dangerous place where freedom is under attack by a tyrannical government, few officials can be trusted and clans of neighbors might someday have to band together to protect one another. 

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The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.