NAPW Writing Contest Winners Selected

After much deliberation by our esteemed panel of expert judges, the winners of NAPW’s first law student writing contest have been selected. Co-sponsored by 19 organizations and individuals, this contest was designed to advance feminist legal scholarship on the subject of pregnant women’s civil and human rights. Specifically, it asked law students to address the statutory, constitutional, and/or human rights arguments that can be made to challenge the trend of banning pregnant women from having a vaginal birth after a caesarean section (VBAC). The subject of the contest is particularly timely. Recently, the story of Joy Szabo, an Arizona mother forced to travel over 300 miles from home in an effort to avoid unnecessary surgery, has been the subject of both local and national media attention. Even CNN covered the story —raising unprecedented awareness of the fact that VBAC is unattainable at nearly half of all U.S. hospitals due to either explicit policies or lack of willing providers.

NAPW and co-sponsors hoped this contest would encourage a new generation of legal scholars to address birthing issues as proper subjects of academic research and legal action. We are proud to announce the winners of this cutting-edge contest:

First Prize: Krista Stone-Manista, Northwestern University Law School, “In the Manner Prescribed By the State”: Potential Challenges to State-Enforced Hospital Limitations on Childbirth Options (Under consideration for publication through special arrangement with the Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender)

Second Prize: Elizabeth Kukura, New York University School of Law, Choice in Birth: Preserving Access to VBAC (Pending publication, Penn State Law Review Winter 2009 Issue.)

Third Prize: Paul Christopher Torio, Santa Clara University School of Law Nature Versus Suture: Why VBAC Should Still Be in Vogue

Honorable Mention: L. Indra Lusero, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law Challenging Hospital VBAC Bans Through Tort Liability: Reasonableness and the Limits of Informed Consent

We were very pleased by the quality of the responses that we received, particularly considering that this is likely to be the first time that many law students have considered birthing issues as civil and human rights issues.

We have the rare pleasure of knowing that the Contest is already having the desired influence on feminist jurisprudence and advocacy in the field. In addition to the publication of at least two of the papers, UDC Clarke School of Law student Lisa Pratt recently presented a paper inspired by the contest at Perinatal, symposium on birth practices and reproductive rights. Her paper, which proposes civil rights legislation protecting pregnant women’s informed consent and decision-making in childbirth, was an inspiring call to action for the birth activists and legal experts assembled.

Because we believe that the issue of women’s rights during labor is critical to the study of gender and the law, we are sponsoring another contest this year on birthing rights. This will continue our outreach to law students and our efforts to encourage emerging legal scholars to push for the inclusion of birthing issues in the discussion of feminist jurisprudence.

Congratulations to the contest winners, and good luck to the 2009-2010 contestants!