Press Statement: National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s Lynn Paltrow on Alabama Supreme Court’s Decision in “Personhood” Measure in Disguise Case

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JANUARY 12, 2013
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FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
JANUARY 12, 2013

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STATEMENT
National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s Lynn Paltrow on Alabama Supreme Court’s Decision in “Personhood” Measure in Disguise Case

New York, NY – In response to the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision in Ex Parte Ankrom and Kimbrough yesterday, National Advocates for Pregnant Women released the following statement from founder and executive director Lynn Paltrow:

“This decision is judicial activism at its most dangerous. By reinterpreting the word ‘child’ to include eggs, embryos, and fetuses, the court has judicially enacted a “personhood measure” in disguise—making it a crime for some pregnant women to go to term and to give birth.”

“What this ruling means is that every pregnant woman in Alabama will be a criminal suspect and those who ingest any controlled substance—even if it is prescribed and whether or not it will have any effect on her future child—may be arrested and incarcerated.”

National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Drug Policy Alliance, and Southern Poverty Law Center filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in this case on behalf of 49 medical, public health, and health advocacy groups and experts. The prosecutions of Hope Ankrom and Amanda Kimbrough, and over 75 other women throughout the state of Alabama, directly conflict with the recommendations of leading medical authorities who agree that such prosecutions are bad for babies and undermine maternal, fetal, and child health.

The Alabama Supreme Court’s decision in Ex Parte Ankrom and Kimbrough radically reinterpreted Alabama state law to permit the prosecution and punishment of pregnant women who go to term. In this decision, a majority of the court held that the word “child” in the state’s “Chemical Endangerment” statute applies to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. Alabama’s 2006 Chemical Endangerment law does not address pregnant women or pregnancy and was passed to deter people from bringing children to places where controlled substances are produced or distributed, such as methamphetamine laboratories.

As a result of the Alabama ruling, this statute, and likely scores of other state criminal and civil laws that use the word “child,” can become the basis for subjecting women, from the moment they become pregnant, to surveillance, arrest, and punishment.

In his dissent, Chief Justice Malone wrote, “the majority's opinion raises these concerns [for] every expectant mother, in a number of complex situations that are significantly impacted by religious faith, racial background, economic status, and the nature of the conception, among many things.”

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