NAPW and More than 100 Signatories Request That Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Consider Impact on All Pregnant Women
On June 22, 2009 National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) released to the public a letter with more than 100 signatories sent to the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate requesting that the Committee ask Judge Sonia Sotomayor and all future Supreme Court nominees: Is there a point in pregnancy when you believe women lose their civil rights? This letter, discussed in Rachel Roth's RhRealityCheck Commentary, addresses the harm that will result if abortion is outlawed and provides concrete examples of civil rights violations against pregnant women that undermine both maternal and fetal health and that would occur routinely if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
"Review of both civil and criminal cases since Roe v. Wade makes clear that what is at stake in each nomination to the Supreme Court is not only the right to choose abortion," said Lynn M. Paltrow, Founder and Executive Director of NAPW, "but also the fundamental issue of whether or not pregnant women are recognized as full Constitutional persons under the law."
According to the letter, focusing exclusively on abortion "makes it possible to ignore critical issues for women that might not be readily apparent. Nearly a million women each year terminate their pregnancies, close to another million suffer miscarriages and stillbirths, and more than four million women continue their pregnancies to term: Each and every one of these women benefits from the Court's decision in Roe v. Wade."
The letter was co-signed by more than 100 legal and public health experts and advocates concerned with both abortion and birthing rights. The signatories include scholars who have revealed the ways that anti-abortion claims of fetal rights are being used to justify policing and punishment of pregnant women who want to carry their pregnancies to term. Among the signers are Dorothy Roberts (Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty); Laura Gomez (Misconceiving Mothers: Legislators, Prosecutors, and the Politics of Prenatal Drug Exposure); Lisa Ikemoto (Furthering the Inquiry: Race, Class, and Culture in the Forced Medical Treatment of Pregnant Women); April Cherry (The Free Exercise Rights of Pregnant Women Who Refuse Medical Treatment); Michelle Oberman (Women, Fetuses, Physicians and the State: Pegnancy and Medical Ethics in the 21st Century); Cynthia Daniels (At Women's Expense: State Power and the Politics of Fetal Rights); Jeanne Flavin (Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women's Reproduction in America); and Rachel Roth (Making Women Pay: The Hidden Costs of Fetal Rights).
"Women's constitutional right to reproductive autonomy includes far more than the right to terminate a pregnancy," said Nancy Ehrenreich, editor of The Reproductive Rights Reader: Law, Medicine and the Construction of Motherhood. "Focusing the confirmation hearings on the issue of abortion ignores the fact that the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe, and more broadly its role as ultimate interpreter of the constitution, are both essential to assuring women their basic rights to human dignity and equality."
You can read the letter here.