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Alameda County sued over forced jail pregnancy tests

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POSTED June 2, 2014 7:57 p.m.

OAKLAND (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a lawsuit Monday against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office over a policy that requires every woman under 60 in its custody to take a pregnancy test.

Shanelle Matthews, a spokeswoman for the ACLU of Northern California, said the policy violates the women’s constitutional rights and is against state law, which gives everyone the right to refuse medical care.

According to the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Nancy Mancias, an Oakland activist and one of the three plaintiffs, was arrested at a protest and forced to take a pregnancy test at the Alameda County jail.

“Being forced to submit a pregnancy test against my will was not about my health,” Mancias said in a statement. “It was invasive, offensive and humiliating.”

Nearby San Francisco has a better policy, Matthews said, because jailed women are given the choice to take a pregnancy test or decline one as part of a broader screening by 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, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California.

The organization has corresponded with the sheriff’s office about the issue for several years, Gill said, and it has consistently refused to change its policy.

“As far as we know, they’re the only county that’s doing this in the state of California,” she added.



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