Taking Root and Fighting Back

Numerous organizations and leaders who identify themselves as “pro-life” have assured the public that their efforts to re-criminalize abortion and establish the unborn as separate legal persons will not result in the arrest of women who end their pregnancies. But women are already being arrested. With your help, NAPW is fighting back.

On May 18, 2011, Idaho prosecutors filed a Criminal Complaint against Jennie McCormack (pictured right) for the crime of having an illegal abortion. See The Next Roe v. Wade?: Jennie McCormack's Abortion Battle. For many, this arrest came as a surprise. Abortion is legal, right? It is, but the state of Idaho claims that its pre-Roe abortion law that made it a crime for a woman to “purposely terminate her own pregnancy otherwise than by a live birth” is very much in force today. As a result, the state is arguing in federal court that it may prosecute, convict, and incarcerate women who, like Jennie McCormack, live in communities far from abortion providers and who find ways, with or without doctors, to safely terminate their own pregnancies.

NAPW’s article, Missed Opportunities in McCorvey v. Hill: The Limits of Pro-Choice Lawyering, looks at the ways in which abortion litigation has been done in the past, and could be done more effectively in the future. NAPW wanted to make sure that Jennie McCormack’s case was not another "Missed Opportunity." As a result, we worked with sister organizations Legal Voice and the Center for Reproductive Rights to file an amicus (friend of the court) brief in Ms. McCormack’s case. We felt that silence was not an option.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first amicus brief of its kind addressing the issue of "self-abortion." It focuses, in part, on the burdens pregnant women bear and the ways in which punishing pregnant women is contrary to history, women’s dignity, the physical realities of pregnancy, and the law. Not a single abortion re-criminalization organization or leader has spoken out against Ms. McCormack's arrest.

We also wanted to let you know that if you think, real Reproductive Justice activism is limited to the coasts -- you haven’t been to Oklahoma lately! With NAPW’s support, the Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice Conference was held in Norman, Oklahoma. This is the second reproductive justice conference in the State. This was a collaborative effort that would not have been possible without a committed group of Oklahoma students, faculty, and activists. Participation doubled from last year. Two hundred people (many of them students from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas) showed up in force. They cheered, they tweeted, and they were inspired to go back to their communities and take action. Many participated in a rally held two days later in Oklahoma City opposing a so-called "personhood measure."

Feedback from the conference before, during, and after was overwhelmingly positive. Tweets from the conference included:

"Standing here waiting for Take Root conference to begin & my heart is swelling all the young people here to further a great cause."

"I'm tearing up at the fact that this discussion is happening in this wonderful place that I live"

"My little heart's burstin' with pride for my community, my state, my region, my people. Take Root was incredible. Come back next year."

And after the conference, one young woman wrote, "I'm grateful I had the opportunity to learn from such incredible speakers and to realize I'm not alone in this struggle! I look forward to attending next year."

We give a special shout out to Mallory Carlberg (pictured below) a former NAPW college intern who now attends Oklahoma University College of Law. Ms. Carlberg founded OU’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice chapter and helped organize a pre-conference talk, Pro-Life vs. Pro-Lives: What the Difference is and Why it Matters, by NAPW Executive Director, Lynn Paltrow.

Please help NAPW make sure that we can continue to support key events like these that build the reproductive justice movement and energize a new generation of activists.