Legal Advocacy

Legal Advocacy

One way to simplify and sum up NAPW’s legal advocacy work is to say: If you are locked up because you are knocked up — call NAPW! This is because NAPW is the leading organization providing pro-bono (free) criminal defense for pregnant women charged with crimes in relationship to their pregnancies — for having an abortion, experiencing a pregnancy loss, or because a woman was pregnant and a law enforcement official believed she was somehow endangering her pregnancy whether by falling down a flight of stairs or by using alcohol or a criminalized drug.

NAPW’s legal advocacy, however, takes numerous forms:

In some cases NAPW becomes direct counsel or co-counsel in a case. In these cases, we directly represent a client who may have been charged with a crime, threatened with state action such as court ordered surgery, or who is challenging the constitutionality of a law, such as Wisconsin’s Act 292 that allows the state to deprive a pregnant woman of her right to medical decision making, bodily integrity, physical liberty and to parent her child.

Assisting Legal Counsel

In addition to directly representing clients in some cases, NAPW assists other lawyers and organizations in representing pregnant women by providing advice and model briefs, by conducting legal research, drafting court papers, and arranging for pro bono experts.

In all of our major cases, NAPW develops a comprehensive strategy addressing the underlying issues or agenda represented by the prosecution. This strategy typically includes enlisting support from other organizations and individuals as experts and amici and working with local and state-based activists who organize against the prosecution or other action taken against the pregnant person.

Organizing Amici

NAPW also works with and often represents scores of leading medical, public health and advocacy organizations and experts as amici (friends of the court) who educate courts, policy makers, and the public about pregnant women, drugs, and the real threats to their health and the health of their children and families.

NAPW’s cases are not limited to one state or region of the United States. Our legal work as counsel for women directly affected, as counsel for amici, or as pivotal advisors may be in everything from local trial courts to the United State Supreme Court. Wherever possible, NAPW includes international human rights arguments in our U.S. cases and we bring our legal expertise to select international human rights cases and advocacy efforts.

Along with direct case involvement, NAPW staff give brief advice, counseling, materials, and referrals to people who call or submit written inquiries each day via our 24-hour telephone and electronic intake systems.

Providing Policy Analysis

NAPW also engages in policy and legislative advocacy work.

NAPW provides allies and activists with analysis of proposed legislation and policies; supports initiatives that affirm the civil and human rights of pregnant people and opposes efforts that threaten or undermine those rights; and advise advocates, activists, and policymakers at the local, state, federal and international levels.

NAPW uses all of the tools available to us including filing formal complaints, commenting on proposed regulations and legislation, exposing the real impact of proposed fetal personhood measure, and filing highly effective submissions to United Nation’s Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs who bring attention to how policies permitting arrests of pregnant women violate international human rights.

NAPW recognizes that each arrest or other misuse of state power over pregnant people reflects a larger political effort to undermine Roe v. Wade and to distract attention from the government’s failure to support pregnant women, families, and communities. NAPW organizes and mobilizes accordingly.

NAPW'S WORK: LEGAL ADVOCACY