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May 29, 2015

PRESS RELEASE: Federal Appeals Court Affirms that Idaho’s Prosecution of Mother of 3 for Having A Medication Abortion at Home is Unconstitutional


Contacts: Sara L. Ainsworth, Director of Legal Advocacy
Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women
(212) 255-9252, ext. 25; sla@advocatesforpregnantwomen.org

Federal Appeals Court Affirms that Idaho’s Prosecution of Mother of 3 for Having A Medication Abortion at Home is Unconstitutional

Also Strikes Down Unnecessary and Onerous Burdens on Abortion Providers and Affirms that Idaho’s Ban on Later Abortion Violates the Constitution

May 29, 2015

Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an Idaho federal court’s decision to permanently prohibit enforcement of parts of Idaho’s abortion statutes. The opinion in McCormack v. Herzog comes almost four years after Jennie Lynn McCormack, an Idaho mother of three, was arrested and criminally charged with violating Idaho’s abortion law for ending her own pregnancy. Ms. McCormack, who lives in southeastern Idaho hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion provider, had an abortion at home with medication obtained over the Internet.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women, along with Legal Voice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, filed an amicus brief supporting Ms. McCormack and urging the appeals court to affirm that criminalizing pregnant women violates their constitutional rights. Sara Ainsworth, Director of Legal Advocacy at National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said, “Punishing pregnant women for their health care decisions is not only dangerous as a matter of public health – it is also a gross violation of their civil and human rights.”

The Court’s opinion was its second in this case; in 2013, it affirmed that Ms. McCormack cannot be held criminally liable for ending her own pregnancy, and noted the enormous barriers that women like Ms. McCormack face in communities that lack access to reproductive health care, including abortion care.

In today’s opinion, the Court affirmed that Idaho may not punish women for obtaining abortions, and that pregnant women retain their ability to challenge prosecutions against them, even if they are no longer pregnant. It also struck down three Idaho abortion rules, two requiring onerous and unnecessary burdens on abortion providers, and one prohibiting women from getting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women said, “Political efforts to prohibit and recriminalize some or all abortions are clearly efforts to permit prosecution and punishment of the women who have those abortions. This important decision recognizes that women’s maternal and reproductive health decisions must be addressed as public health matters, not as crimes.”


May 28, 2015

Outraged about Purvi Patel's case? Take action today!

Many of you know about and are outraged at the Purvi Patel case in Indiana, in which a woman who was accused of attempting to have an abortion was convicted of two crimes: feticide and neglect of a dependent. Ms. Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and will have to serve that sentence unless her appeal is successful. Today, and every day through Sunday, May 31, there is something you can do to express that outrage and join people from around the world in doing so.

Women's Link Worldwide (WLW) has nominated Purvi Patel's case for the Bludgeon Award, an award designed to bring international attention to cases that legitimize prejudice and stereotypes on issues of gender, sexuality, and reproduction. You can vote for Purvi Patel's case here by clicking "Vote for this Case" in the top, right hand corner, or by entering the code "1467" on the main awards page. You can vote for the case once a day until voting closes on May 31, 2015.

WLW is an international human rights non-profit organization working to ensure that gender equality is a reality around the world. With regional offices in Europe and Latin America, this organization focuses its advocacy on the judicial system. Every year, WLW highlights important cases through their Gender Justice Uncovered Awards. Gavel Awards are given to cases and judicial decisions that promote gender justice. Bludgeon Awards are given to cases that undermine gender justice. This year, Purvi Patel's case has been nominated for a Bludgeon Award.

Please vote here. Receiving a Bludgeon Award will help bring international attention to the extraordinary injustice of Ms. Patel's case as NAPW works with allies to help win her appeal and challenge the prosecution and punishment of pregnant people.

We are pleased to report that Ms. Patel has excellent appellate counsel. To support her case, National Advocates for Pregnant Women is working with numerous reproductive rights, health, and justice organizations, medical and public health experts, South Asian community and attorney groups, Indiana-based organizations, and more. Together we are working to carry out ongoing public education and actions and to ensure that the Indiana Appeals Court is fully informed about the devastating impact prosecutions like this one have on pregnant women, families, communities, public health, and human rights.

For more information about Purvi Patel's case read the following articles:

It's All too Easy for Pregnant Women To Be Put on Trial in the United States

How Indiana is Making it Possible to Jail Women for Having Abortions

Purvi Patel Isn't the First Woman of Color to Have Her Pregnancy Put on Trial in Indiana

Finally, you can vote for more than one case. Our international allies also nominated the Alabama cases, permitting prosecutions of women who become pregnant and use any controlled substance (even one prescribed by a physician), for the Bludgeon Award. More than 160 women have been arrested since 2006, with more than 8 arrests just in the last month. You can vote to "bludgeon" those cases as well here: http://bit.ly/1FiNPAt.

Please vote today, and please continue to support NAPW.

May 21, 2015

Resistance Matters

NAPW and our allies' recent victories show how important it is to resist attacks on pregnant women's personhood -- and how equally important it is to organize with our allies to reframe the debate.

Defeating Colorado Feticide Law

With NAPW's support, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), NARAL Colorado, Planned Parenthood of Colorado, and partners did what most thought would be impossible: We stopped Colorado from becoming the 39th state to adopt a feticide law. We've seen the "feticide playbook" before: typically after violence against a pregnant woman, the state passes a law that declares separate rights for fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. Next, it argues that it is hypocritical to treat fetuses as persons in some cases but not when the pregnant woman herself ends a pregnancy or can't guarantee a healthy newborn. The outcome? A law supposedly passed to "protect" pregnant women becomes a tool for prosecuting and arresting pregnant women themselves.

But NAPW used its own playbook to help Colorado advocates to defeat this proposed feticide law. We do the careful research needed to show how feticide laws have been used to arrest and detain pregnant women. We establish and maintain meaningful relationships with reproductive justice and other local organizations. And when those partners seek our help, we respond immediately with legal support, analysis, participation in media briefings, and commentary framing the issues. And we always encourage and applaud colleagues who amplify these frames. Together we succeeded in revealing Colorado's feticide law for what it really was: yet another effort by anti-choice activists to reduce and restrict pregnant women's constitutional and human rights.

Tennessee Activists Stop Bill Targeting More Pregnant Women

In Tennessee, NAPW is working with local advocates to repeal the law, enacted last year, permitting arrests and prosecutions of pregnant women - with special provisions for the arrest of pregnant women who may have used "narcotic" drugs. This year, the Tennessee Legislature considered a bill that would expand the law to allow arrests of even more pregnant women. Although the bill was expected to pass easily, local activists organized by Healthy & Free Tennessee and SisterReach, went to the media, and put together such strong opposition that they stopped the bill in its tracks.

North Carolina Says No to Similar Law

In North Carolina, physicians came to NAPW for analysis and support to help them defeat a bill that, like Tennessee's law, would have created special, gender-based crimes for pregnant women and threatened public health. NAPW helped connect physicians with local experts and activists, like the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, and with those advocates opposing similar laws in other states. We provided support and analysis crucial to demonstrating that enacting this law would harm public health at great financial cost to the state.

And Our Fight Continues ...

NAPW's playbook also includes advocacy in the courts. In the last few months, we have filed friend of the court briefs in Arkansas, Vermont, and Virginia on behalf of nearly 100 organizations and individual experts, arguing for pregnant women's civil and human rights.

NAPW also continues its extensive public education efforts. In March, NAPW assisted Alicia Beltran's presentation at the Wisconsin Women's Health Policy Summit. Alicia received a standing ovation when she shared her story of being arrested and detained when she sought medical care during pregnancy. NAPW is honored to support Alicia's work as a women's health advocate.

In April, Farah Diaz-Tello, Senior Staff Attorney, spoke at the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Qatar. She explained that one way you prevent crime is by refusing to define the things that human beings do - such as getting pregnant - as crimes in the first place. Farah also represented NAPW in May at the UN's 5th Civil Society Hearing, in preparation for 2016's UN General Assembly Special Session on the global drug war, where she spoke about how the war on drugs has justified deprivations of women's human and civil rights.

Finally, we are proud to report that Executive Director Lynn Paltrow will receive an honorary degree from the City University of New York's School of Law and will give the commencement speech to this year's graduating class. We are also proud to note that this class includes Kara Wallis, NAPW's former Research and Program Associate. Congratulations, Kara!

Please help us continue to prove that resistance matters.

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