The Atlantic: The High Stakes of Wisconsin’s “Cocaine Mom” Law


I wrote this Atlantic story about a woman suing to repeal a unique 1997 Wisconsin law about drug use during pregnancy.

Loertscher has received national attention as one of very few to pushback successfully against a slew of punitive laws, many enacted in the past several years, that have targeted pregnant women. She never guessed she’d become a symbol of resistance. Growing up in a small, working-class industrial town in northern Wisconsin, Loertscher dreamed of being an astronaut. But until recently, she’d barely even made it out of the state, where she found work in the healthcare system. In Wisconsin, she fell in love with a local boy, Dondi Ellner, who had been around the world as a musician—and even knew how to cook. They moved in together and shared his niece’s house. Things were good for a while, and then not so much.