Some Good News for Mothers this Mother's Day Weekend

NAPW has some good news for mothers this Mother's Day weekend. And by "news," we literally mean news coverage and commentary that is good for mothers. After decades of inaccurate and stigmatizing news coverage about drug-using pregnant women and parents, NAPW is making inroads. Reporters are using investigative journalism not only to highlight social injustice, but also to expose inaccurate coverage as sensationalism in the guise of news. Here are three recent and important examples:

This week,, ran a terrific long-form story, "Pregnant on Opiates: When Following Doctors' Orders Breaks the Law" by Ada Calhoun. This story features the case of Jenessa Moman, a loving and capable mother who was treated as a child abuser by child protective services (CPS) because she was receiving medication-assisted treatment that is recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

NAPW's Soros Justice Fellow, Kylee Sunderlin explained "There is such stigma that it's hard to separate what's fueled by CPS thinking there really is harm and what's just a gross misunderstanding of what medication-assisted treatment is." The story reports that National Advocates for Pregnant Women became involved in Moman's case in December 2013, and on January 27th, the charges were dropped.

This week, The American Prospect also ran an excellent long-form article entitled, "The New Moral Panic Over Drug-Dependent Babies" by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux. It describes the "hyped-up crack-baby crisis" of the 1980s and 90s and analogizes it to current fears about neonatal abstinence syndrome. It accurately describes these fears as "overblown" and leading to dangerous and counterproductive laws like the one just enacted in Tennessee. The story features the fact that poverty is a far greater risk to children than their mother's drug use, that punitive approaches ignore the advice of medical professionals, and the story highlights a case in which a woman who sought help was punished for doing so.

NAPW Staff Attorney, Farah Diaz-Tello, and Soros Justice Fellow, Kylee Sunderlin, are quoted in this article, which gives the last word to NAPW ally, Professor Susan Boyd. The article says "Like the 'crack baby epidemic,' this narrative puts mothers in opposition to their children, rather than seeing them both as vulnerable people, in need of care. 'The fetus is part of the mother,' Susan Boyd says. 'What's good for her is good for her baby. I think sometimes we forget that.'"

Finally, we bring to your attention an excellent commentary by Deborah P. Small, the founder and Executive Director of Break the Chains: Communities of Color & the "war on drugs." This piece makes powerful connections between "fetal personhood" laws (including Tennessee's Pregnancy Criminalization Law), and the private, for-profit prison industry. In her post, "Political Puppeteers: Policing Pregnancy for Profit, Promoting Personhood for Power," Small highlights NAPW's research, and wonders whether there is any connection between Tennessee's new legislation that makes pregnant women subject to criminal punishment and the fact that the nation's largest private prison company - Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) - has its corporate headquarters in Tennessee.

NAPW, with the help of a newly energized Fourth Estate, hopes to ensure that all parents are valued, and that policies addressing pregnant women and families are based on love, respect, and #ScienceNotStigma.