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December 17, 2012

Help NAPW? Yes you can!

The elections are over, but the fight for pregnant women's personhood is not.

During the past year, NAPW celebrated numerous legal advocacy successes, obtained unprecedented media coverage, and saw that our grassroots organizing strategies are working. We are also breathing a sigh of relief that a "pro-choice" president was re-elected.

The elections, however, did not erase the feticide and fetal murder laws that now exist in 38 states, nor did they repeal the innumerable anti-abortion measures already on the books. Moreover, the election results will not stop (and indeed, may fuel) those determined to undermine Roe v. Wade and establish separate "personhood" for fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses.

Through ongoing litigation, research, and analysis, NAPW can now say for sure that feticide laws, and anti-abortion and other measures designed to establish "personhood" for fertilized eggs are providing the basis for the punishment of pregnant women whether they are seeking to end a pregnancy or go to term. Such measures are the reasons why Bei Bei Shuai in Indiana and Rennie Gibbs in Mississippi are now facing murder trials for having suffered pregnancy losses.

And, despite the votes in Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana, drug war propaganda and medical misinformation will continue to provide cover for state prosecutors and elected judges to expand state child abuse and related laws to reach and punish women who go to term in spite of using a controlled substance. Such efforts, if successful, establish precedent that permits state authorities to control and punish all pregnant women, not just those alleged to have used a criminalized drug. NAPW is helping defense attorneys challenge dozens of new cases in Alabama and other states where pregnant women who have used a controlled substance are once again being arrested when they go to term and give birth. If courts uphold these prosecutions, those who oppose abortion will have been successful in using the judicial process to pass "personhood" measures in disguise.

NAPW needs your financial support to challenge "personhood" measures in disguise, continue our fight to secure justice for Rennie Gibbs and Bei Bei Shuai, and ensure that women like Jennie McCormack do not go to jail because they had an abortion.

NAPW uses each case and each challenge to develop local leadership, local expertise, and state-based opposition to future cases, measures, and strategies that would undermine the constitutional and human rights of pregnant women. Win or lose, NAPW litigates and builds.

Consider some of NAPW's achievements in the past year:

In Idaho, Jennie McCormack, with no access to an abortion provider, induced her own abortion. She was arrested and charged under Idaho's pre-Roe criminal abortion law. NAPW was the first (and for a long time the only) legal advocacy group to reach out to her lawyer to offer help. NAPW began to build support for Ms. McCormack and the idea that no pregnant woman should be arrested for having an abortion. Then, with two of our allied organizations, NAPW appeared as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Our amicus brief explained why, as a matter of history and law, Idaho's criminal laws could not be used as a basis for locking up pregnant women who find ways to have abortions when there are no abortion providers in their communities. This brief helped win an unprecedented decision in the Court of Appeals rejecting Idaho's claim that it may punish women who end their own pregnancies.

In New York, we helped Brooklyn family defense attorneys win an unprecedented victory in a family court case, ruling that evidence of a pregnant woman's marijuana use is not the same as evidence of civil child abuse.

In Texas and South Carolina, where women were threatened with legal action if they refused to schedule cesarean surgery in advance of labor, NAPW was able to organize the legal opposition needed to get the hospitals to back down.

In Indiana, we worked with local counsel to help win Bei Bei Shuai's release from jail. She had been held there without bail for an entire year.

With your support we will be able to magnify these successes to effect positive policy and social change.

NAPW is proud to have helped local and state-based activists around the country defeat personhood measures and stop legislation that would create special penalties for pregnant women. This year the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) recognized NAPW's expertise. ONDCP invited NAPW to speak at a special meeting where we presented positive policy solutions to issues concerning pregnant women and prescription opiate use. NAPW also played a vital role at the first international conference to address human rights in childbirth. An NAPW staff attorney is featured in a new documentary, Freedom for Birth, about the human rights of pregnant women.

NAPW is amplifying the voices of women and families directly affected by punitive measures and claims that deny women their dignity. NAPW's newest on-line video, Project Prevention: Mothers and Children Speak Out, features women and children challenging the dehumanizing claims made by an organization that offers low-income, drug-addicted women $300 to get sterilized or use long-acting birth control. NAPW's resistance to the stigma and misinformation perpetuated by Project Prevention is now featured in the Inheritance episode of WNYC's RadioLab - a radio show that is one of the top-five most downloaded podcasts in America.

With your support, NAPW will use our research and expertise to persuade judges, policy makers, and advocates that all pregnant women, regardless of their views on and experiences with abortion, have benefitted from the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade and a system of law that ensures pregnant women's personhood.

NAPW is reframing the abortion debate away from the divisive pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy to one that considers the personhood and humanity of all pregnant women, including those who are going to term. Through continuing education programs and community events, articles, commentaries, letters to the editor, and on-line media and outreach, NAPW is shining a bright light on what is really at stake: not just the right to abortion, or even women's right to physical liberty, but also - and more fundamentally - women's personhood.

We are extremely pleased to report that in the coming year, two peer-reviewed journals will publish the results of our long-term research documenting the arrests, detentions, and forced interventions of pregnant women in the United States from 1973 to 2005. We can now demonstrate with hard data that there is no way to add fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses to the Constitution as separate legal persons without denying pregnant women their personhood and subtracting them from the community of constitutional persons.

NAPW sees beyond "red" or "blue" states. We see opportunities to organize and educate.

Your gift helps NAPW share new knowledge and strategies, and inspire new activism through public education and outreach. Reproductive justice activists and leaders exist in every state, including those labeled "fly-over" or considered too conservative to bother with. Consider Oklahoma. Three years ago, we initiated a reproductive justice conference in Stillwater, Oklahoma: one hundred young activists came. In 2012, we worked with state-based and national allies to hold a second conference in Norman, Oklahoma: two hundred pro-choice and reproductive and social justice activists came. Your donation will ensure that this vital, movement-building, leadership-developing event will continue. Join us in Oklahoma for the third annual Take Root: Reproductive Justice in the Red States conference, February 15-16, 2013, and see for yourself the energy, vitality, and possibilities of progressive, reproductive justice activism everywhere.

Please give generously as an enthusiastic NAPW member, friend, and ally. While the elections may be over, the struggle for reproductive justice must continue.