Reason Clickbaits about Woman Being Briefly Jailed for Using Drugs While Pregnant

  • Reason makes it seem as though woman was jailed for longer than she really was based on a bad tip

  • Courts have affirmed the police’s right to detain people for 36-48 hours as they investigate a tip about illegal conduct

  • Reason writer and editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown is an ideologue advocating policy, not honestly reporting or analyzing the facts

OUR RATING: Sloppy and Error-Filled. Your typical Friday night at Fox News, sloppy work.

Indicted Outlet: Elizabeth Nolan Brown | Reason | Link | Archive | 11/22/22

Pro-abortion reporting comes in many stages of development: partially-developed dishonesty and fully-developed dishonesty. Reason Magazine’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown gives readers a dishonest rundown of a story about a woman in Alabama who was briefly in jail because of a good faith false lead from police.

Major Violations:

  • Lying Headline
  • Dishonest Framing
  • Imaginary Monsters
  • Misusing a Word
  • Guilt by Geography

Here’s the headline from Reason:

“Alabama Jails Woman for Endangering Her Fetus. She Wasn’t Pregnant.”

This is literally true but leaves readers with false assumptions. An Alabama woman was put in jail for the crime of ‘endangering her fetus’ and she was not pregnant.

But the impression left to the average reasonable reader is that the woman was jailed for a substantial period of time, the usual preferred phrasing is ‘languished’ in jail, because she was supposedly pregnant while doing drugs.

What the article buries is that she spent less than 48 hours in jail. That’s in the ninth paragraph in the Reason piece.

She alludes to it when writer Nolan Brown mentions the lack of a pregnancy testing kit in the second paragraph, but the writing makes it unclear why the pregnancy test wasn’t taken.

There’s an easy way to tell if someone is pregnant, of course, but authorities reportedly failed to administer a pregnancy test before booking Stacey Freeman into jail for about one and a half days. “Freeman offered to take a pregnancy test and Etowah County Department of Human Resources employees entered an order for one,” according to “However, she never took the test and Etowah County Sheriff Investigator Brandi Fuller issued a warrant for her arrest, according to the lawsuit.”

The major question to answer is how long Freeman spent in jail. In journalism this is called “burying the lead/lede” – hiding the major relevant facts until further into the story. By doing so, she misleads her readers into thinking that Freeman spent more time in jail than she really did.

The original reporting at puts this fact in its third paragraph. [1]

Let’s recap the basic chronology of events: the police had a tip from Freeman’s child that Freeman was endangering her unborn child, they arrested and detained her, they tried to test her within 36 hours but apparently they did not have a pregnancy test, and then she was released 12 hours later.

This is how the justice system is supposed to work. This is how the system works across the country. Nolan Brown is creating imaginary monsters to justify her political advocacy.

Under relevant and applicable legal precedent, this is the proper way the police are supposed to act.

The Supreme Court in County of Riverside v. McLaughlin in 1991 [2] said police had 36-48 hours to present its probable cause determinations to a defendant about why they were being detained:

In order to satisfy Gerstein’s promptness requirement, a jurisdiction that chooses to combine probable cause determinations with other pretrial proceedings must do so as soon as is reasonably feasible, but in no event later than 48 hours after arrest.

The court was citing to the ‘promptness’ requirement to inform a defendant of the government’s probable cause determination of Gerstein v. Pugh from 1975. [3]

Here, the police had a tip that there was a crime being committed. They detained the accused, they timely performed the investigation which determined that the accused was not possibly guilty of the conduct being alleged, and then was released.

You can disagree with the law protecting unborn children from harm, which Elizabeth Nolan Brown no doubt does because she seems to be a zealot for principled child murder. You can argue that the courts have had it wrong and should process defendants faster than 48 hours, which some states do. You can note that it’s unfortunate that anyone is detained based on a faulty tip, but that’s inevitable because not every allegation is true or accurate, but Nolan Brown prefers to contort language instead of admit the obvious: that the jail didn’t have a pregnancy test and ordered one, and it took a while to arrive.

Here’s Nolan Brown’s twisted formulation:

There’s an easy way to tell if someone is pregnant, of course, but authorities reportedly failed to administer a pregnancy test before booking Stacey Freeman into jail for about one and a half days.

There’s no dispute that there’s ‘an easy way to tell if someone’s pregnant.’ The jail ordered a test because they apparently did not have one in stock, they did not ‘reportedly fail[ed] to administer’ one, they simply did not have one to give her. This is dishonest framing by Nolan Brown.

Let’s give this editor a little editing and rework her paragraph to, you know, actually include the available facts:

Authorities did not administer a pregnancy test before booking Stacey Freeman into jail because one was not in inventory. After they ordered one it took a day and a half to arrive, and Freeman was released within 12 hours of testing negative.

When you write the situation with the facts, it becomes obvious this is a non-story.

But it also reveals the biases of the author.

A quick review of her Instagram feed [4] shows that Nolan Brown is shameless about highlighting her political support for the murder of unborn children.

In fact pro-abortion advocacy is the only political advocacy quickly found in her feed. Here’s one example, [5] and another. [6]

Reporters are allowed to be political after all, the old standards of rigid objectivity are perhaps unrealistic and unattainable. But in people’s personal political opinions there is a difference between preferences and salient issues. Meaning that there are issues people support or oppose generally, and those issues which are animating first principles for people’s political activity.

When a reporter is covering an issue that is an animating first principle for them, it’s evidence of conscious or unconscious bias that the author brings to the story.

Another bit of evident bias is the way Nolan Brown reports that “Alabama Jails…” in her headline. Alabama is a political boundary. The state agents within the state, namely the local sheriff, jailed the accused. This may seem like semantics, but it’s extra hypocritical here because libertarian analysis has long challenged ‘state actor analysis’ [7]

Practically speaking, is every teacher in every public school a ‘state actor’ and therefore an arm of the State of Alabama? Is an intern in a prosecutor’s office a ‘state actor’ subject to constitutional limits? For decades the left has sought the most expansive definition of state actors possible so that they could secularize the nation’s classrooms by calling every teacher a ‘state actor’ so that they couldn’t pray.

So while it might be a semantically small issue to refer to ‘Alabama’ jailing a woman – it reflects a mindset by the author that seeks to use expansive interpretations of the law in order to push her political ideology as far and as wide as possible. To the extent Reason represents pro-liberty or libertarian views, she’s using a dishonest frame in order to call every County Sheriff a state actor for purposes of this story. That interpretation is the current law, but it’s against the grain of 70 years of libertarian thought. 

It’s also a form of guilt by geography because it plays into a left-wing meme of oppressive Southern states being more prone to arrest and incarcerate vulnerable populations. It’s subtle, but the complete lack of provided context about whether this statute exists in other states or is enforced elsewhere, leads one to believe that this is a problem unique to Alabama.

If an issue is one of the most passionate political topics one cares about, it’s dangerous ground to be reporting upon because the likelihood of prejudice and bias is very high.

OUR RATING: Sloppy and Error-Filled. Your typical Friday night at Fox News, sloppy work. 

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