NAPW Asks: "Who Among Us Will Take a Stand?"
Are you in Alabama? Do you know or love someone in Alabama?
National Advocates for Pregnant Women has documented more than 130 arrests of pregnant women in Alabama under a law that the state Supreme Court judicially expanded (with citation to biblical authority) to permit the arrests of pregnant women who use any controlled substance - even prescribed medications. Many of these pregnant women and new mothers are held in jail with bail set at outrageously high levels. Some mothers have been sentenced to long terms in Tutwiler prison, a maximum-security prison where women are at risk for rape, sexual assault, and other human rights violations. While NAPW is working with local lawyers to defend the women who have already been arrested, we know this is not enough. As a result, NAPW and the Carr Center for Reproductive Justice at NYU School of Law are announcing a call for plaintiffs. We are seeking brave women, doctors, and methadone treatment providers to join an affirmative civil rights lawsuit to declare this law unconstitutional and stop new arrests of pregnant women. Please take a stand and join this lawsuit and/or help us spread the word. For more information about how to join the lawsuit, see "National Advocates for Pregnant Women Seeks Plaintiffs to Challenge Alabama Law Used to Arrest and Prosecute Pregnant Women."
But please do not think terrible things only happen to pregnant women in Alabama or the "red" states. As this story in The Guardian reports, quoting NAPW's Director of Legal Advocacy Sara Ainsworth, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Y.N. case in early September. This case raises the question of whether the state can treat pregnant women who obtain methadone treatment as child abusers in the state's child welfare system. On the one hand, it was clear that NAPW's amicus brief on behalf of more than 70 organizations and experts played a huge role not only with the court, but also with the state. At oral argument, both the lawyer for the state and the guardian for the child referred to this amicus brief and essentially conceded that medically approved methadone treatment could not be a form of child abuse. We are hopeful of winning on that ground. There is strong indication, however, that the court will continue interpreting state law to permit child abuse and neglect statutes to apply to pregnant women in other contexts. There is no deadline for a decision from the State Supreme Court, but we know that the need for NAPW's work in New Jersey will not end with this case.
Finally, we are happy to let you know that NAPW's work helped zealous lawyer Ron Piper in Montana get criminal charges dismissed against a woman who was arrested when she was only 12 weeks pregnant for allegedly "putting her unborn fetus at 'substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death.'"
Expect to hear more from us soon, as we continue to work tirelessly to advance reproductive justice for pregnant women and their families.