Dear Friends and Allies,
As the spring season offers hope of a new start, we are grateful for science, vaccines, and the possibility of reconnecting in person with our friends, colleagues, and loved ones. But as we enter this season, it is imperative that we don’t lose sight of the vast inequalities exposed during pandemic.
We also can't lose focus on the inequities that have always existed. As we mourn the deaths of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo by police, and watch Derek Chauvin's trial for the murder of George Floyd, we remain resolute that to achieve reproductive justice, police killings and state-sanctioned violence against Black and Brown people in the United States must end.
We must also end the ways in which junk science undermine lives and health. More than one year into the pandemic, we know that rejection of medical and scientific truths contributed to the death of over 550,000 people in our country. This same type of harmful, pervasive misinformation has long been weaponized by the anti-abortion movement and the criminal justice and child welfare systems to target, surveil, and control certain groups of people, particularly those in the BIPOC community.
At NAPW, we are all too familiar with how medical misinformation is used to challenge the right to have an abortion and to criminalize the people who get pregnant. And as my recent commentary in Ms. makes clear, the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade is about much more than ending the right to choose to have an abortion.
Please read about some of our latest accomplishments challenging the legal consequences of junk science, the exciting news about the NAPW team members who have joined our fight in advancing the equal rights and personhood of all pregnant people, and register for our upcoming webinar: When Pregnancy Is Used to Deny Patients Their Civil and Human Rights.
Lynn M. Paltrow
Founder and Executive Director
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Join us for an NAPW Webinar on April 28, 12-2pm ET
(2 NY CLE credits offered)
What happens when a pregnant patient exercises their right to medical decision making? Is there any justification to override a pregnant patient’s consent? Join us for a discussion featuring leaders in bioethics, medicine, law and birth justice about pregnant patients’ rights to informed consent, bodily integrity, and medical decision making and the trauma that forced medical interventions can inflict on pregnant people.
Last month, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard oral arguments in the case of Manuela et al. v. El Salvador. El Salvador has an absolute abortion ban. Under that law, women who have abortions go to jail along with women, like Manuela, who in 2008 was sentenced to 30 years in prison after suffering a miscarriage. NAPW submitted an amicus brief in support of Manuela et al. on behalf of 34 organizations and individuals from around the world. Amici are human rights advocates, public health experts, and medical doctors who agree that this absolute abortion ban not only prohibits necessary healthcare, it also undermines healthcare access generally by making doctors an arm of the police state and undermining patient-doctor confidential relationships. NAPW’s work on this case also helps to illustrate and educate people in the US about what can happen when countries outlaw abortion.
In November, we filed an amicus brief in the Wyoming Supreme Court in support of Leigha Stewart, who gave birth to a healthy baby and was prosecuted for criminal child endangerment. According to the prosecutor, she endangered a child by allegedly passing controlled substances through the umbilical cord to her newborn in the brief time after birth but before the cord was cut. In addition to the amicus brief, NAPW board member and maternal-fetal specialist Dr. Hytham Imseis provided a letter to the prosecutor countering the junk science on which the prosecutor relied. We are thrilled to report that last month the prosecution dropped the criminal child endangerment charges against Ms. Stewart. This is a victory for all Wyoming women facing child endangerment charges for something related to their pregnancies.
We recently celebrated an important victory in the Chelsea Becker case. In November 2019, our client, Chelsea Becker, a California mother of three, was charged with murder after experiencing a stillbirth. Kings County District Attorney Keith L. Fagundes claims, without scientific basis, that this pregnancy loss was caused by Ms. Becker's methamphetamine use. She was charged under the state’s homicide statute, despite the fact that it explicitly prohibits the prosecution of pregnant women for the loss of their own pregnancy and regardless of what they did that allegedly caused that loss. We are thrilled to report that Ms. Becker is finally out of jail after serving 16 months. On March 9, 2021, Kings County Superior Court Judge Robert Shane Burns granted Chelsea Becker’s request to be released on her own recognizance so that she could enter a residential treatment facility. But her legal fight continues. We applaud the legal team on Ms. Becker’s case, including NAPW Consulting Counsel Daniel Arshack and Staff Attorney Samantha Lee. You can hear Samantha speak about the case and the broad impact of criminalizing pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes on 3 Women 3 Ways.
While we are relieved that Ms. Becker is out of jail, another California woman, Adora Perez, remains in prison stemming from nearly identical facts as Ms. Becker's case and prosecuted by the same district attorney. We, along with our partners in California, continue to fight for Adora Perez’s freedom and for all people who are facing prosecution based on pregnancy or any outcome of pregnancy.
And in Alabama, we filed a motion to dismiss an indictment against Kimberly Blalock, a mother in Lauderdale County. Alabama, a state that leads the nation in arrests of women in relationship to their pregnancies, seems to have identified yet another criminal charge to use against pregnant people. Ms. Blalock was indicted on a felony drug charge: unlawful possession of controlled substance obtained by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or subterfuge. What had she done? While pregnant, she had renewed her prescription for an opioid to manage severe and chronic back pain. Staff Attorney Emma Roth and Alabama co-counsel Brian White will continue to fight this misuse of Alabama’s drug possession law and for the rights of all people, including pregnant patients to access necessary medical care without fear of arrest, prosecution and incarceration.
Marijuana Reform Finally Achieved!
This month, New York State approved the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) legalizing marijuana in a way that centers equity and social justice. We congratulate the many organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance and individuals who worked tirelessly for this extraordinary legislation that not only legalizes recreational marijuana use in NY but also promises to invest in the communities that have been disproportionately harmed by drug criminalization laws.
This law does something else that is also quite exceptional. It anticipated the law’s potential impact on people targeted by the child welfare system and specifically prohibits child welfare and related interventions against parents solely for conduct permitted under the MRTA. NAPW is proud to have supported these reforms.
Announcing New NAPW Team Members!
As the need for our work grows, so does the need to grow our staff. We are thrilled to announce the addition of seven new team members within last year. Please meet all our new team members who bring unique and accomplished perspectives.