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April 16, 2009

Another NAPW Victory -- Indiana This Time

NAPW is proud to let you know that our work helped get a felony neglect charge dismissed against an Indiana woman who carried her pregnancy to term in spite of a drug problem. After Brooke Honaker tested positive for methamphetamine while pregnant, she was charged with felony neglect of a dependent. She was drug tested as part of her pre-existing probation. The prosecutor filed the neglect charge despite a clear precedent in Indiana establishing that the neglect of a dependent statute does not apply to the context of pregnancy. See Herron v. State, 729 N.E.2d 1008 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). The Honaker case was originally discussed in a news article that highlighted NAPW's work on behalf of drug using pregnant women.

Contrary to the assumptions made in the article and underlying the arrest, methamphetamine use during pregnancy has not been found to create unique harms, or harms greater than exposure to such things as cigarettes. A discussion of this research by Dr. Barry Lester, available as part of an NPR report on an Oklahoma case, can be access by clicking here.

NAPW prepared a memo for local counsel showing that Indiana precedent (some of which our staff helped establish years ago) clearly applied in this case and barred the neglect charge against Ms. Honaker. Even though there was no legal basis for this arrest, the prosecutor refused to drop the charge even after being advised of the controlling precedent. Local counsel, Mr. Jon Owen persisted in defending Ms. Honaker. He used the information in our memo and filed a motion to dismiss. We are happy to report that the court granted it.

This case is a great example of the need for and value of NAPW's persistence and vigilance in maintaining gains already achieved. It is also a terrific example of good legal defense work. Congratulations to Mr. Owen.

This case also illustrates that in spite of the absence of laws authorizing these arrests and, in cases like this, court decisions explicitly banning such charges, prosecutors continue bring these cases. Women like Ms. Honaker are not only charged with a non-existent crime, they experience a traumatizing arrest, detention, and lengthy legal battle while often failing to get the drug treatment they may need.

April 1, 2009

Traditional Values Coalition vs. NAPW?

We knew that our recent commentary and video that challenges PersonhoodUSA was likely to draw fire from the Right. We were not mistaken. Shortly after releasing our video and commentary, Andrea Lafferty, President of the Traditional Values Coalition, wrote a response seeking to discredit National Advocates for Pregnant Women by "exposing" our work on behalf of drug using pregnant women.

We, however, are grateful to Ms. Lafferty for providing us with a fantastic opportunity to educate the public about the possibilities for common ground, and to bring more attention to our newest video featuring award-winning pediatrician Deborah A. Frank, debunking the "crack baby" and other drug related myths. On March 30, 2009 the Huffingtonpost ran our new commentary, Do People Who Support "Traditional Values" Value Pregnant Women? with a link to the video.

The video is a very useful teaching tool. Please share it widely with policy makers, students, health care providers, medical and child welfare administrators, advocates, and allies.