Some California jails force female inmates to take mandatory pregnancy tests, but a lawsuit filed by the ACLU calls the practice an invasion of privacy. 

By Erika Rasmusson Janes
June 03, 2014
Home Pregnancy Test

Should anyone be forced to take a pregnancy test? That's the question on my mind now that three women have filed a lawsuit against the Alameda County, California, sheriff over a policy requiring all female inmates 60 or younger to submit to pregnancy tests, Huffington Post reports.

The ACLU of Northern California filed the lawsuit on behalf of the women yesterday. "Being forced to submit a pregnancy test against my will was not about my health. It was invasive, offensive, and humiliating," said one of the women, Nancy Mancias, in a statement released by the organization.

According to the statement, arrestees in neighboring San Francisco "are given the option to take a pregnancy test as a part of a broader medical screening" but—and here's the important part—they can decline to do so after they've met with a medical professional.

"If the Alameda County Sheriff's Department is genuinely concerned about the health of women in their custody, voluntary pregnancy testing should be administered as part of a comprehensive health exam," said Elizabeth Gill, Senior Staff Attorney at the organization. "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."

Not surprisingly, the Sheriff's Department doesn't see it that way—and as HuffPo reports: "[T]he Alameda County Sheriff's Department told the San Francisco Chronicle that it's been sued over this before—and last time, they were on the other side of the coin. The department was sued for not conducting the pregnancy tests. As part of the settlement, they agreed to make the tests mandatory."

I don't agree with the policy—especially considering, as the statement goes on to say, arrestees aren't forced to take many other types of medical tests. To me it's invasive, unfair, and unnecessary to force women (especially older women—because let's face it, how many 59-year-olds turn up in jail pregnant?) to take a pregnancy test. So let's review: offering the option? Great? Forcing it? Um, nope. I'm with the ACLU on this one.

Tell us: Do you agree with the Alameda County Sheriff's Department policy?

Image of a home pregnancy test courtesy of Shutterstock