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December 1, 2015

Take action now with NAPW

Amend it, Alabama!

Last week, we learned that Alabama's Health Care Improvements Task Force is considering making changes to the state's chemical endangerment law, which has been used to prosecute almost 500 pregnant or parenting women in the last several years. As Nina Martin and Amy Yurkanin reported for ProPublica and AL.com, the proposed changes may include amendments that would 1) return the law to its original intent of punishing people who expose children to drug-manufacturing facilities such as meth labs (but not punishing pregnant women who use any amount of any controlled substance); 2) protect from prosecution women who are prescribed a controlled substance during pregnancy; and/or 3) offer women a chance at treatment rather than arrest.

You can show the task force that you support changes to the law that will stop or reduce the punishment of pregnant women. Sign this NAPW-supported petition that encourages the state to change this law that's already hurt so many Alabama families. The petition, launched by Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, is almost 14,000 strong. We need to keep the pressure on. The petition needs your signature today.

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Join an action TOMORROW, Nov. 25, on Staten Island

Childbirth is one of the most common bodily experiences in the world. Too many pregnant women, however, experience coercion at the hands of their health-care providers, and some experience what can only be described as actual violence. NAPW has joined the U.S. arm of the Roses Revolution movement, which was founded in Spain to assert the right to obstetric care that respects patients and human rights.

Join us tomorrow Wednesday, Nov. 25, as NAPW and its U.S. partners -- the Birth Rights Bar Association, Choices in Childbirth, Elephant Circle, Human Rights in Childbirth and Improving Birth -- deliver roses to Staten Island University Hospital's North campus. We will gather from 12:20 p.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Ocean Breeze Campus located at 475 Seaview Ave., on Staten Island (see directions for the North campus).

Along with flowers, we'll deliver the strong message that women deserve respectful treatment during obstetric care. More specifically, we will call for a change to the hospital's policy permitting forced cesareans.

Staten Island University Hospital is a defendant in the ongoing Rinat Dray case, in which the health-care facility forced Dray to undergo cesarean surgery that caused her lasting damage. In its defense, the hospital claims that the surgery was in keeping with a policy that allows doctors to override pregnant patients' decisions. This policy conflicts with human rights and legal principles of medical decision-making, and it governs care of pregnant patients in all hospitals in the North Shore LIJ health-care system, which covers much of the New York City metropolitan area.

Visit our Facebook event page for more information on how to get involved with tomorrow's event and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, an annual observance which kicks off tomorrow and runs until Human Rights Day (Dec. 10).

If you are unable to come, there will be opportunities to get your message to the hospital, including this petition directed at the hospital administrators responsible for policies surrounding maternity care.

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Demand better journalism on Tennessee law from NPR

At NAPW, we frequently work with journalists to share information about punitive policies that undermine the rights of pregnant people -- and to challenge myths and stigma used to justify those policies. And, sometimes, we sound the alarm because these reports fall far short.

A recent collaboration from NPR host Ari Shapiro and Tennessee public radio reporter Blake Farmer focused on Tennessee's "fetal assault" law, which permits the prosecution of pregnant women and new mothers for certain kinds of drug use.

One report from Ari Shapiro mischaracterized medication-assisted treatment as a form of addiction. Treatment with substances such as methadone and buprenorphine is the recommended treatment for pregnant women with opioid dependency problems; these medicines are used to treat addiction as a chronic health problem, similar to the ways in which insulin is used to manage diabetes.

Contact Ari Shapiro (tweet @AriShapiro) to ask for more balanced, science-based reporting in the future. Tennessee's law is set to expire in July 2016 and will likely be discussed in the coming legislative session. So it's critical that future reporting should include drug-treatment professionals; medical experts; and Tennessee-based groups such as Healthy and Free Tennessee and SisterReach, among others.