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"No One Should Go Through What I Went Through"

Diana Kasdan,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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November 19, 2009

That’s what Bethany Cajúne told me the first time we spoke about her experience in Montana’s Lake County Detention Facility. “No one should go through what I went through.” We filed a case earlier today to make sure that Bethany’s desire to protect other women becomes a reality.

This past March, Bethany voluntarily reported to the detention facility to complete an outstanding short-term sentence for traffic violations. At that time, she was approximately four to five months pregnant, raising five small children, and attending GED classes four days a week. She was also about to successfully complete her first year in a medication-treatment program for a diagnosed addiction to opioid drugs. What Bethany didn’t know when she reported to the facility was that detention officials would withhold her medication, which was prescribed to suppress withdrawal symptoms and facilitate Bethany’s recovery, and was now critical for protecting the health of her pregnancy.

Despite several attempts by Bethany’s treating physician and drug treatment counselor to ensure that Bethany continue receiving her medication, facility officials, including its chief medical doctor, denied her this care. As a result, Bethany suffered complete and abrupt withdrawal, experienced constant vomiting, diarrhea, rapid weight loss, dehydration, and other withdrawal symptoms, all extremely dangerous during pregnancy. Despite repeated warnings of the serious risk abrupt withdrawal posed to Bethany’s health and pregnancy, including miscarriage, the facility continued to withhold her medication. Instead of receiving appropriate medical care, she was at various times confined in an unsanitary and windowless solitary confinement cell, told to “tough it out,” and shackled during an ultrasound examination. It took the intervention of a public defender to secure her release so that she could resume the treatment. In the end, Lake County knowingly put Bethany’s health and pregnancy at severe risk for nine days.

Luckily, Bethany’s story has a happy ending. After she resumed treatment, Bethany regained her health and gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She has also since completed her GED and is looking forward to the next chapter in her life. Part of moving on for Bethany is ensuring that no one else will go through what she went through.

Learn more about Bethany’s experience and the case the ACLU filed today on her behalf by watching this video:

Please note that by playing this clip You Tube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see You Tube’s privacy statement on their website and Google’s privacy statement on theirs to learn more. To view the ACLU’s privacy statement, click here.

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