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Woman who gave birth in jail sues Macomb County

The Associated Press

Mount Clemens – A woman who says she was forced to give birth in a suburban Detroit jail two years ago is suing over allegations her civil rights were violated.

Jessica Preston poses with her child Elijah.

Jessica Preston filed a federal lawsuit this month alleging Macomb County Jail staff ignored her when she went into labor while being held for driving on a suspended license in 2016. Preston delivered her son, Elijah, on a filthy cell floor in Mount Clemens after repeated attempts to tell jail staff of her high-risk pregnancy and pleas to be hospitalized, the lawsuit said.

Preston’s lawyer, Robert Irhie, said jail staff violated Preston’s 14th Amendment rights.

Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka denies claims that Preston’s rights were violated.

“There is no constitutional right to be born in a hospital, or any collateral right to be born outside of a jail,” Schapka said.

Preston had been scheduled for a cesarean-section birth in April 2016, but went into labor a month earlier while awaiting her pre-trial hearing in jail, the lawsuit said. Preston said she was taken to the jail’s medical ward when her pain worsened and she began to bleed, but no one called Emergency Medical Services until the baby was crowning.

A woman who says she was forced to give birth in the Macomb County Jail, shown in this 2014 file photo, two years ago is suing over allegations her civil rights were violated.

“I’ve been diagnosed with some PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Preston said. “I have nightmares and some trauma from it.”

The lawsuit alleges “deliberately indifferent actions and inactions” by several defendants, including correction officers, the county and Sheriff Anthony Wickersham.

Wickersham’s attorney filed a motion last week seeking to dismiss Preston’s claims against him.

Macomb County Jail has been flagged in the past for denying detainees medical treatment, including a 2015 investigation by the FBI.

Preston’s son Elijah is reported to be a healthy two-year-old. Preston said she hopes her lawsuit prevents other babies from being born behind bars.