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October 23, 2014

Media Advisory: New Video & Fact Sheet on Colorado 67 and North Dakota 1

Today, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) released an online video How Colorado's Amendment 67 and North Dakota's Measure 1 Can Hurt All Pregnant Women. This short video details how the legal principles promoted by these measures would, and have, already been used to justify the arrests of and forced medical interventions on pregnant women and new mothers.

This week, NAPW and COLOR also released the fact sheet, "Value Pregnant Women and Mothers: Vote NO on Amendment 67," explaining how Colorado's amendment, if voted into law, would make pregnant women and new mothers across Colorado vulnerable to arrest and prosecution.

This resource (available in English and Spanish) identifies many of Colorado's criminal laws that would become tools for arresting, rather than protecting, "pregnant mothers." Amendment 67 would do this by making the words "person" and "child" in the Colorado Criminal Code include "unborn human beings." For example:

Child abuse: (1)(a) A person commits child abuse if such person causes an injury to a child's life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child's life or health, or engages in a continued pattern of conduct that results in malnourishment, lack of proper medical care, cruel punishment, mistreatment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately results in the death of a child or serious bodily injury to a child. (C.R.S.A. § 18-6-401) [Words in bold highlighted for emphasis.]

Reckless endangerment: A person who recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person commits reckless endangerment. (C.R.S.A. § 18-3-208 § 18-3-208) [Words in bold highlighted for emphasis.]

If Amendment 67 passes, a pregnant woman could be arrested and prosecuted for "child abuse" or "reckless endangerment" for refusing a cesarean surgery, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or engaging in a variety of everyday household and workplace activities if law enforcement authorities believe they create "a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to an 'unborn human being.'"

The fact sheet includes real-life examples of pregnant women who have already been arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned under child abuse and other criminal laws based on the principles that Amendment 67 would put into law.

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October 19, 2014

Will the Truth Prevail? All Pregnant Women Are At Risk

NAPW's work on behalf of all pregnant women is getting extraordinary attention. Journalist Nina Martin has just published the first article in a series: "This Alabama Judge Has Figured Out How to Dismantle Roe v. Wade: His writings fuel the biggest threat to abortion rights in a generation." This investigative piece, reporting on some of the more than 135 prosecutions of pregnant Alabama women that NAPW has documented, appears in ProPublica and in The New Republic. In this story Martin makes clear what NAPW has long known - that the Alabama Supreme Court's decision upholding prosecutions of pregnant drug-using women is part of a long term strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade and recriminalize abortion. Thankfully the story also features some of NAPW's long term strategy to challenge the Alabama policy that is already depriving women of their civil and human rights.

As a result of NAPW's collaborative work, the media is also now reporting the fact that so-called "personhood" measures would have the effect of recriminalizing abortion and depriving women of their personhood. As our RH Reality Check commentary co-authored with Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) explains, if people want to "Keep Mothers Out of Jail - they must Vote 'No' on Colorado's 'Personhood' Measure." NAPW and COLOR's joint fact sheet explains that Amendment 67's passage would not "protect pregnant mothers and their unborn children" as proponents claim, but rather will subject pregnant women and new mothers to arrest and prosecution. Our message is being reported by both national and state-based media, including the Colorado Springs Independent, "Personhood by any other name Amendment 67 would make the unborn 'persons,' which could lead to bizarre consequences," and Colorado Public Radio, "Colorado's 'personhood' Amendment 67 more ambiguous than partisans say."

NAPW's efforts to ensure that no part of our government is used to deprive pregnant women of their civil or human rights are also getting important coverage. This summer we learned that a US Attorney in Tennessee won an enhanced sentence (six additional years in prison) for Lacey Weld because she was pregnant when she committed a crime. NAPW challenged this action in a recent letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, calling on the Department of Justice to renounce this position as contrary to rational and just sentencing policies as well as the rights and health of pregnant women, children, and families. In an important show of force and solidarity, 48 Reproductive Justice, drug policy reform, civil liberties, and women's rights organizations joined this letter, which has received significant media attention, including coverage in Slate, VICE, and RH Reality Check. As the letter explains, becoming pregnant and either continuing or terminating a pregnancy is a fundamental right for which no person should be subject to punishment directly or through enhanced penalties. (Next month, NAPW will file an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of Ms. Weld's appeal).

Finally, NAPW knows that we have to do more than litigate - we must also educate. That is why we hope that you will share widely NAPW staff Kylee Sunderlin and Laura Huss's article "The Mythology of 'Addicted Babies': Challenging Media Distortions, Laws, and Policies that Fracture Communities." This article beautifully explains how decades of pernicious and distorted narratives about drug use during pregnancy have led to policies that hurt all pregnant women and undermine families.

October 8, 2014

PRESS RELEASE: Nationwide Coalition Calls on Department of Justice to Denounce Enhanced Sentence for Pregnant Woman

October 7, 2014

Contact: Lynn Paltrow, NAPW, (212) 255-9252
Cherisse Scott, SisterReach, (901) 310-5488

Nationwide Coalition Calls on Department of Justice to Denounce Enhanced Sentence for Pregnant Woman

Today, a coalition of 48 reproductive justice, drug policy reform, women’s rights and civil liberties organizations sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to renounce enhanced criminal penalties for women on the basis of pregnancy. The letter was co-signed by organizations in ten states and the District of Columbia.

In the case at issue, Lacey Weld pled guilty to the crime of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. According to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney William C. Killian of the Eastern District of Tennessee, she was given an enhanced sentence—an additional six years in federal prison—because she was pregnant at the time she committed the crime.

The coalition demonstrates in its strongly worded letter that an enhanced sentence based on pregnancy is contrary to the Obama Administration’s commitment to rational and just sentencing policies, women’s reproductive and civil rights, and the health and well-being of children and families. The letter also makes clear that this position is contrary to the Obama Administration’s stated support for science and evidence-based research as the basis for public policy.

“The action supported by the federal prosecutor in Tennessee is based on the profoundly discriminatory principle that pregnant women may be subject to separate, unequal and harsher penalties than others,” said Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Becoming pregnant and either continuing or terminating a pregnancy is a fundamental right for which no person should be subject to punishment directly or through enhanced penalties.”

Cherisse Scott, Founder and CEO of the Tennessee-based organization SisterReach, said, “Opening the door to enhanced penalties for pregnant women will unquestionably make women of color—a group already subject to extraordinary disproportionality in criminal punishment and sentencing—even more vulnerable to state and federal control and punishment. U.S. Attorney Killian’s statement reinforced medical misinformation that is fueling the arrests of pregnant women and new mothers under Tennessee’s new fetal assault law and destroying families in the process.”

Reproductive justice, a vision and framework developed by women of color, demands more than respect for individual privacy and protection of the right to choose abortion. Reproductive justice also recognizes that government is obligated to create the social and economic conditions that allow all people to live with dignity, ensuring respect for these interconnected human rights: 1) the right to have children; 2) the right not have children; and 3) the right to parent the children we have.

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