Pregnancy, Labor and Birth


NAPW defends and advocates for people who are pregnant, continue their pregnancies, and give birth.

NAPW is the leading organization providing pro bono (free) legal advocacy for women who, except for the fact that they are pregnant, would not have been charged with a crime, threatened with arrest or loss of child custody, or forced to undergo nonconsensual medical interventions, including surgery.

In the U.S. approximately 4 million women each year get pregnant, continue those pregnancies and give birth. As U.S. data on maternal mortality makes clear, women, especially Black women continue their pregnancies despite the serious risks to their own lives and health. Some of the these women are being investigated, arrested, threatened with arrest, and/or coerced into or forced to submit to treatment and other interventions against their will.

Some criminal laws focus on punishing people — not for any actual harm they have done — but for things that risk harm. For example, many states make child “endangerment” a crime. This crime is committed when someone puts a child at risk of harm but does not actually cause any injury to the child.

An increasing number of police officers, prosecutors, as well as doctors and nurses believe that both criminal and civil laws designed to protect children may also be used to protect “unborn” children — meaning fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. As a result, women who are pregnant and disagree with a doctor’s advice or command to stay in bed, remain in a hospital, or undergo cesarean surgery have been threatened with arrest, actually arrested, held prisoner in hospitals, forced to undergo major surgery, and reported to civil child welfare authorities for “unborn” civil child abuse or neglect.

NAPW has played a major role in helping to get threats of arrest or detention rescinded, charges dropped and convictions overturned; threats of forced surgery dropped and orders for such medical interventions overturned; and child welfare actions based on a pregnant woman’s decision-making regarding her own health, reversed.

NAPW believes that no person should fear arrest or be subjected to other forms of government control or retribution as a result of pregnancy or any outcome of pregnancy.

Call us or have your lawyer reach us at 212-255-9252.

The issue of pregnancy, labor and birth is in fact interconnected with the all of the other issues NAPW addresses and all of NAPW’s work reflects this.

Need to Know

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More than 10,000 babies are born per day in the U.S., a third of them (30%) via C-surgery.

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Women report experiencing mistreatment by health care providers during birth. Mistreatment is experienced more frequently by women of color, when birth occurs in hospitals, and among those with social, economic or health challenges.


According to the CDC, 700 women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth in the US every year.


Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

NAPW's Work: Pregnancy, Labor and Birth