Hyperemesis Gravidarum Is a Life-Threatening Pregnancy Condition
For Immediate Release: July 6, 2021
On Friday, July 1, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), as lead amici, asked an Arizona Court of Appeals to accept their brief on behalf of 45 leading health organizations, doctors, ethicists, scientific and medical experts, and advocates, including Amy Schumer, in support of Lindsay R., a mother found guilty of civil child neglect and placed on Arizona’s Child Abuse Central Registry because she used medical marijuana while pregnant pursuant to a valid medical certification and suffered from acute hyperemesis gravidarum.
On May 4, 2019, Lindsay R. gave birth to a son. During her pregnancy, she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a pregnancy-related condition that causes constant nausea, vomiting, and severe dehydration, as Amy Schumer documented regarding her own HG diagnosis in the HBO Max series, Expecting Amy. Lindsay R.’s HG was so severe that she was hospitalized twice. She was a qualifying patient under Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, and used medical marijuana to manage her conditions. That law allows all adults, including those who are pregnant, to benefit from medical marijuana without penalty. Nevertheless, a lower court found that Lindsay R. committed civil child neglect for her use of medical marijuana during her pregnancy and placed her on Arizona’s Central Registry for the next 25 years. The Central Registry is maintained by Arizona's Department of Child Safety and lists people with substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect. Placement on the registry creates barriers to employment in childcare, child welfare, and health care services, limiting Lindsay’s job opportunities for the rest of her working life.
The lower court ignored the severity of HG and relied on junk science about prenatal exposure to marijuana to find that Lindsay’s use of medical marijuana while pregnant constituted child neglect. The State characterizes her use as selfish behavior that wrongfully “prioritiz[ed] her own needs over those of her child.” As NAPW’s brief explains and Expecting Amy documents, HG is a devastating condition that can pose significant risks to the pregnant woman and her future child.
In 2010, Arizona voters legalized medical marijuana by ballot initiative for all adults, including those who are pregnant. Peer-reviewed scientific research does not support the conclusion that prenatal exposure to marijuana causes harm or creates risks of harm different or greater than exposure to many substances as well as medications prescribed to pregnant women. As the more than 40 amici organizations and experts explain in the brief, children are not protected by equating medical marijuana use with child neglect and penalizing their parents.
“No one should fear child neglect charges and a 25-year penalty because they were pregnant and qualified medical marijuana users,” said Samantha Lee, staff attorney for National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “And contrary to Arizona’s claims, no child will be better off if the state’s unprecedented and scientifically baseless interpretation of the law is allowed to stand. This will only sow fear and distrust in the medical system and lead to worse outcomes for Arizona families.”
Amici’s legal team includes Jana L. Sutton, associate attorney at Mesch Clark Rothschild of Tucson, Arizona and National Advocates for Pregnant Women Staff Attorney Samantha Lee, Research and Program Associate Purvaja Kavattur, and Executive Director Lynn M. Paltrow. Lindsay R. is represented by Julie Gunnigle, Law Office of Julie Gunnigle PLLC, of Scottsdale, Arizona.
For more information or to set up an interview with members of the legal team, please contact: Dana Sussman, Deputy Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women | 646.854.1454 | firstname.lastname@example.org.