Attorneys: Mentally ill woman forced to give birth alone in jail cell

A mentally ill woman allegedly gave birth alone in a Broward County, Fla., jail cell despite asking for help seven hours prior, CNN reports. 

Tammy Jackson, who has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to her mother, was full term when she complained to jail and medical personnel early on April 10 that she was having contractions, her public defenders Howard Finkelstein and Gordon Weekes Jr. said in a letter to the sheriff.

Instead of taking Jackson to the hospital, staff purportedly tried to contact an on-call doctor, who did not respond until four hours later. The physician said he would check on Jackson when he arrived at the jail but allegedly failed to show up promptly.

"Six hours and 54 minutes after asking for help, a [Broward Sheriff's Office] tech notified medical staff that Ms. Jackson was holding her newborn baby in her arms, having delivered the baby without medication or the assistance of a physician," the letter said. 

Jackson's lawyers added that their client had been placed in the infirmary for monitoring since April. 

"The birth was not premature or unexpected," Finkelstein and Weekes argued. "Yet in her time of extreme need and vulnerability, BSO neglected to provide Ms. Jackson with the assistance and medical care all mothers need and deserve."

Jackson, who was arrested in January for possession of cocaine, was reportedly worried that her attempts to push the baby out vaginally would tear her C-section scar open, Weekes told the New York Times. A doctor and two nurses attended to her and her baby following the delivery, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said. 

Authorities have since launched an internal investigation into the incident. 

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