Dear Friends and Allies,
National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) believes that at no point in pregnancy should women lose their civil or human rights.
Fortunately, we were able to get this message out to millions of people this year through a New York Times op-ed, "Pregnant, and No Civil Rights." Over the weekend of its publication, the op-ed was the #1 most emailed, tweeted, and Facebook 'shared' piece in The New York Times. A week later, our commentary continued to be the most tweeted and Facebook 'shared' piece of the week.
Thank you! With your support, NAPW has not only been able to reach new audiences and broaden the base of those who understand that anti-abortion measures hurt all pregnant women, we have also been able to achieve numerous victories. To share but a few:
In Colorado and North Dakota, NAPW helped defeat ballot measures that would have established separate rights for fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. Through commentaries, videos, billboards, fact sheets, local meetings, and numerous interviews with the media, NAPW worked with state-based advocates to broaden the base of opposition to these measures by exposing how they would provide the authority for sending pregnant women and new mothers to jail and depriving them of their personhood.
In Oklahoma, NAPW once again played a vital role in supporting the Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice conference. In its fourth year, 400 people (from more than 28 states) attended, doubling last year's participation. This conference provides a vital, ongoing mechanism for building and sustaining a movement for Reproductive Justice in parts of this country that for too long have been ignored as sources of progressive activism and organizing.
In Mississippi, through our collaborative work with local counsel and scores of national and international drug policy reform, health, and human rights organizations, NAPW achieved an important victory. After eight years of our persistent legal advocacy, a Mississippi judge finally dismissed the murder charge against Rennie Gibbs, an African-American teenager charged with "depraved heart" murder after experiencing a stillbirth at 36 weeks of pregnancy.
In Texas, we helped Jessica DeSamito, a pregnant Navy veteran, win her freedom from detention in a county jail. County officials took her into custody for an alleged probation violation despite the fact that doing so would prevent her from receiving the methadone treatment she had been prescribed. This deprivation of medication-assisted treatment could have caused her to lose the pregnancy. In addition to helping her with her legal case, NAPW ignited a fire storm of public outrage, including a nationwide social media campaign (#JusticeForJessica) that generated a petition with over 6,000 signatures, scores of calls to the county jail, and a flood of media attention, including this Salon piece, "Rick Perry's 'pro-life' hypocrisy: How Texas puts pregnant women at risk." As a result of NAPW's efforts, Ms. DeSamito was released from jail within seven days and was able to receive the healthcare she needed.
In New York, we helped ensure that traveling across state lines while pregnant is not treated as a form of kidnapping.
Thank you for helping us get this far. But we have a long way to go. We need your support to continue our work.
Our cases have been compared to Margaret Atwood's dystopian work of fiction, The Handmaid's Tale. Unfortunately, our cases are all too real.
In Wisconsin, yet another pregnant woman has been subjected to arrest, humiliation, and punishment for speaking honestly to her doctors and seeking help for her health problems. In this case, the state has already ruled that a woman who has yet to give birth is an abusive parent. The pregnant woman - who had sought medical help for serious health problems and the fact that she was self-medicating to address these problems - was reported to state authorities. Twice court hearings were held where her fetus had a lawyer but she did not. The state's response included incarcerating her for 17 days, where she received no prenatal care, spent time in solitary confinement, and was threatened with being shot with a Taser. NAPW is fighting this shocking abuse of state power.
In Alabama, more than 130 women have been arrested under an expansive judicial interpretation of the state's chemical endangerment of a child law. NAPW is moving on multiple fronts to challenge these arrests, and to help key investigative journalists in their efforts to unmask the politics behind this decision, including how it may be used to dismantle Roe v. Wade. As you read these words, a woman who took one Valium while pregnant, gave birth to a healthy child, and was found to be a good and responsible mother awaits trial on the felony charge of "chemical endangerment of a child." This mother could face up to 10 years in prison.
In New York, a woman was forced to have cesarean surgery. A physician wrote in her medical records: "The woman has decisional capacity. I have decided to override her refusal to have a c-section." And in Florida, a woman at 38 weeks of pregnancy received a letter from her hospital's chief financial officer threatening to force her to have cesarean surgery and to report her to child welfare authorities if she sought to deliver at that hospital and insisted on having a trial of labor.
Voters in Tennessee passed Measure 1, a state constitutional amendment that appeared, on its face, to narrowly focus on abortion. We believe that Tennessee's Amendment 1 is better understood as a referendum on the personhood of pregnant women. This year, Tennessee also became the first state to pass a law explicitly designed to permit the arrest of women in relationship to their own pregnancies. The arrests have already begun and NAPW is already bringing attention to the cruel and counterproductive effects of this law. On top of this, the US Attorney in Tennessee has argued that if a woman commits a federal crime while pregnant, the government should be able to increase the severity of her punishment. NAPW is fighting these attacks on pregnant women.
NAPW is working on all of these cases and issues, and we are using them to show that the principles used to justify limiting abortion are the same ones used to judge, punish, and control all pregnant women.
With your help, we can turn handmaids' tales into reproductive justice victories.
The outcome of the votes in Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee confirm NAPW's insights and the wisdom of our long-term strategies. When we can make clear that a measure will hurt all pregnant women, we can win - and keep those measures from becoming the law. When attacks on abortion are treated only as attacks on that one procedure and not the status of all women, we will continue to lose ground.
We need your help to make sure that women in every state are protected from arrests, prosecutions, forced medical interventions, and laws that would not only deprive pregnant women of the right to choose abortion, but also deprive them of their civil and human rights.
Please support NAPW generously so that we can continue to fight for the dignity, humanity, and personhood of all pregnant people.
With best wishes for the holiday season,