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January 27, 2014

Join the Red State Resistance: Meet Us in Oklahoma Feb. 21-22

We hope you will join us this year at the 4th Annual Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice Conference. Registration is now open for this year's conference that will be held in Norman, OK on February 21-22.

Surprised that such a conference is taking place in Oklahoma? Don't be.

Potential activists in the "red" areas of the country have largely been written off as too conservative, too ideologically homogenous, and too geographically and culturally isolated to contribute to a nationwide and transnational reproductive justice movement. Rather than encourage and support people who stay and fight, popular media and people on the coasts often suggest that the best alternative for "red" state activists is to move to more progressive parts of the country.

These are some of the reasons that in 2011, NAPW Board Member Carol Mason - then Director of the Gender and Women's Studies Department at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK - organized the first Red State Regional Reproductive Justice Conference with colleagues and student activists who inspired her. Every year since, state-based and grassroots leaders have been growing this event. NAPW is proud to be a supporter of Take Root.

NAPW believes that activists in the Red States - where the assaults on reproductive freedom are the greatest and most direct - are likely to be the primary, leading innovators, developing the policies, actions, and strategies that will stop the current attacks on the right to choose abortion and women's personhood, and eventually establish the full constitutional and human rights of all pregnant women. Indeed, the collective political actions last year in Texas, which included participants and student organizers of the Take Root conferences, prove this point. Meaningful and effective activism in the red states should be supported and nurtured and those activists will inspire the rest of the nation.

Take Root 2014 features a pre-conference training by YP4 and speakers from Oklahoma, the South, and across the nation. Speakers include Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women and the South Wind Women's Center in Wichita, Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women With A Vision, Shafia Monroe, founder of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Jessica Luther, Coya White Hat-Artichoker, Gwen Fields, Oklahoma University's Center for Social Justice Activist-in-Residence, and NAPW's own Executive Director, Lynn Paltrow.

We look forward to seeing you there. In the meantime, follow the conference on Facebook and Twitter @TakeRoot_RJ and join in the conversation at #TakeRoot14!

January 19, 2014

Hard to Imagine a More Absolute Denial of a Woman's Personhood

This New Year began with boldfaced reminders that there are an increasing number of laws and policies that are being used to create a second-class status for pregnant women.

With Katherine Taylor (author of the brilliant 1998 article "Compelling Pregnancy at Death's Door"), NAPW wrote a commentary for RH Reality Check, bringing attention to the fact that pregnancy exclusion laws that exist in more than 30 states explicitly establish a separate and unequal status for women. As we explained in the commentary "Rather than archaic sexist laws left on the books from earlier times, the pregnancy exclusions are of a recent vintage. They establish that while men are free to determine what will happen to them if they become sick and unable to communicate their health-care wishes, women who may become pregnant are not free to plan the course of their health care, lives, and deaths."

The case of the now 20-week pregnant Marlise Munoz in Texas is highlighting such laws and NAPW is working to expose how all laws that advance separate rights for fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses deprive pregnant women of their personhood: "It is hard to imagine a more absolute denial of a woman's personhood than depriving her of the right to decide her own future, and then literally using her body without permission-possibly for weeks or months-as an object for a fetus to grow in."

NAPW is also challenging a New Jersey Appellate Court decision that establishes a separate and unequal status for pregnant women who need and want drug treatment. Last week, NAPW and co-counsel Lawrence S. Lustberg of Gibbons P.C. filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of 76 organizations and experts in maternal, fetal, and child health, addiction treatment, and health advocacy. The brief urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that, if upheld, would effectively ban pregnant women from receiving methadone treatment even though it is the treatment that the federal government, international health organizations, and the state of New Jersey itself recommends for treating opioid dependence.

As reported in Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly "the lower court ruling could also be applied to any pregnant women who requires medication that may have adverse effects on the newborn, including women with epilepsy, depression, and blood clots." The court is expected to hear oral arguments later this year. Among the groups represented are the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the Medical Society of New Jersey.

NAPW's work challenging laws, policies, and practices that undermine women's personhood, that are counterproductive to maternal, fetal, and child health, and that advance the war on drugs to women's wombs is gaining increasing attention. We are pleased that our work has been recognized in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in "Physicians and the (Woman's) Body Politic," by Professor R. Alta Charo, in The Nation online, in "No Longer Human," by NARAL President Ilyse Hogue, and on another MSNBC segment featuring Dr. Carl Hart.

NAPW fights for policies that respect women and families. We hope that you will join NAPW's effort to ensure that, upon becoming pregnant and through all stages of labor and delivery, women retain their civil and human rights.

January 9, 2014

Experts to New Jersey Supreme Court: Drug Treatment is Not Child Abuse

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2014

Contact: Kylee Sunderlin
(212) 255-9252
info@advocatesforpregnantwomen.org

Experts to New Jersey Supreme Court: Drug Treatment is Not Child Abuse Experts Challenge Decision That Would Make New Jersey the First State to Effectively Outlaw Methadone Treatment for Pregnant Women

Trenton, NJ – This week, 76 organizations and experts in maternal, fetal, and child health, addiction treatment, and health advocacy filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief before the New Jersey Supreme Court, urging it to overturn a lower court ruling making the state’s civil child abuse law applicable to women who received medically prescribed methadone treatment while pregnant.

At the center of the case is a woman, identified by the court as Y.N., who had been struggling with a dependency on opioid painkillers. When she found out she was pregnant, she followed medical advice and obtained care that included methadone treatment. She gave birth to a healthy baby who was successfully treated for symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a side effect of methadone treatment and other medications, such as those commonly prescribed to treat depression. Y.N. was reported to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services), and was judged to have abused or neglected her child because she agreed with her physician’s recommendation and followed the prescribed course of methadone treatment while pregnant.

Lawrence S. Lustberg of Gibbons P.C., co-counsel for the amici, explains that “the New Jersey Supreme Court has been a national leader in recognizing that when cases raise scientific, medical, or other technical issues, the evaluation of these issues must be informed by existing scientific knowledge, including expert testimony.” He added, “This case should not be an exception, yet, the decision in the lower court was reached without the input of a single medical expert and without considering the established science addressing the value of methadone treatment to maternal, fetal, and child health, and other key health and social welfare issues in the case.”

Dr. Robert Newman, one of the experts represented in the brief and a nationally and internationally recognized authority on methadone treatment, said, “As a matter of medicine and health care, it is simply nonsensical to regard methadone treatment as a form of child abuse.” He explained, “Decades of research unequivocally demonstrate the benefits of treating a pregnant woman’s addiction to opioids with methadone, an extraordinarily well-studied medication whose benefits to the mother as well as the baby unquestionably outweigh the treatable and transitory side effects that are sometimes seen in the newborns.” He noted that “It is not recommended that women simply stop using opiates during pregnancy” and that “methadone and other related treatments are acknowledged by national and international governmental, academic and clinic authorities to be the best choice for maternal, fetal, and child health, reducing risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth.”

The experts’ brief addresses the fact that the lower court did not consider health measures that can be taken after birth to reduce symptoms of NAS, including keeping the new mother and baby together and encouraging breast feeding. The brief also notes that there is nothing in the lower court’s decision that limits its ruling to pregnant women who receive methadone treatment and could be applied to any pregnant woman, including those who experience health conditions such as epilepsy, depression, and blood clots that require medication that have potential adverse effects in the newborn.

Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and co-counsel representing the experts, explained that, “unless the lower court decision is reversed, New Jersey would become the only state in the U.S. to effectively ban pregnant women from receiving methadone treatment.” She added, “DCPP’s position and the lower court’s decision is inexplicable and irrational. They not only fly in the face of the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the U.S. government, but New Jersey itself, which, through collaborations between the New Jersey Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and DCPP, provides methadone treatment to pregnant women and families in the child welfare system.”

The court is expected to hear oral arguments this term. The group of expert amici included the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association, American Public Health Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, Medical Society of New Jersey, New Jersey Psychiatric Association, New Jersey Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-NJ. A full list of amici is available here: http://bit.ly/K7vhNo.

In 2013, more than 50 national and international experts published an open letter urging that media coverage of prenatal exposure to opioids be based on science, not stigma and misinformation. This letter is available at: http://bit.ly/1eIdeaz.

Y.N., the mother in this case, is represented by Clara S. Licata and T. Gary Mitchell.

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