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January 29, 2018

Statement from Lynn M. Paltrow, Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women

NAPW Calls on Senators to Oppose S. 2311, Federal Legislation Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks

Senate Bill 2311 Demeans and Denies the Personhood of Pregnant Women

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on S. 2311, a law making it a crime to perform or attempt to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Make no mistake, this law, which according to its supporters serves the purpose of protecting "pain-capable unborn children" is about far more than abortion: It is a law that defames women, denies their humanity, and establishes legal principles that will be and have already been used to justify arrests of and forced medical interventions on pregnant women who have no intention of ending their pregnancies.

The fact is that children would not exist nor would the species survive but for the women who become pregnant and at some significant risk to their own lives and health, give birth and bring forth life. Sometimes, very rarely, some of these pregnant women need to have an abortion after 20 weeks. Pregnant women are human beings who are capable of experiencing pain; who are physically and psychologically affected by stress, and who experience physical as well as psychological and emotional health conditions in the course of their lives. This law denies all of this.

According to this proposed legislation, we must consider only the purported stress and pain of the unborn (defined as existing from the moment of fertilization). Pursuant to this law, doctors may be arrested and sent to jail for up to five years for providing abortions that are needed to protect a woman's physical and mental health. It is a law declaring that it is a crime to take a pregnant woman's "psychological and emotional condition" into account. Simply put, the Senate is voting on a law that says that neither women nor their suffering count.

This proposed legislation, that has already passed in the House of Representatives (H.R. 36), and that President Trump has repeatedly announced his support for what he calls "this important law," also provides precedent for acts of government violence against pregnant women who have no intention of ending their pregnancies.

Each year, six million women in the United States become pregnant. Approximately four million women go to term, nearly one million have abortions, and nearly one million women experience pregnancy losses, including thousands of stillbirths that occur after 28 weeks of pregnancy. All of these women are at risk as a result of this Senate Bill and the 20-week bans that have already been passed in more than a dozen states.

Prosecutors, police, and sometimes even doctors claim that if the state may protect the unborn by depriving pregnant women of their rights in the abortion context, consistency requires that pregnant women be deprived of their rights in all contexts, including birth and pregnancy loss. Indeed, this proposed legislation asserts that its authority to create a federal law criminalizing abortion comes from "a compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children."

It is exactly this claim that has been used to carry out and justify forced cesarean surgery on Rinat Dray who was left with a permanent injury to her bladder. It is the same justification used to defend holding Samantha Burton prisoner in a Florida hospital and forcing her to undergo surgery- neither of which prevented a pregnancy loss but did deprive her of a multitude of constitutional rights and kept her from caring for the daughters she had at home. "Protecting" unborn lives is the rationale used to arrest a pregnant woman who sought help in Iowa after falling down a flight of stairs and for a law in Wisconsin that allows the state to lock up pregnant women from the moment they carry a fertilized egg - with a lawyer for the embryo and none for the pregnant woman.

Increasingly, prosecutors are arguing that if the government may protect unborn lives through laws that force a woman to carry her pregnancy to term, then they should also be able to use the law to punish pregnant women who have miscarriages or stillbirths and failed to go to term. Indeed, relying on exactly this argument and even sometimes citing state 20-week bans, prosecutors have charged such women with crimes including manslaughter, murder, and depraved heart homicide.

These are not isolated arrests and prosecutions limited to one state or region of the country. Jeanne Flavin and I co-authored an article in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law documenting more than 400 cases involving the arrests and detentions of, and forced medical interventions on, pregnant women taking place between 1973 and 2005. Since 2005, at least 700 additional cases have been documented. All rely on precisely the same principles dehumanizing pregnant women that would be enshrined in national law if S. 2311 passes.

None of us would be here without a woman who became pregnant and went to term. S. 2311 betrays these women and would set a precedent reaching far beyond the issue of abortion. This is why people, whatever their views on abortion, should oppose S. 2311 that demeans and denies the rights, health, and lives of the human beings called pregnant women.

We urge you to call your Senators and let your voice be heard!

January 23, 2018

Your Actions & Support Make a Difference!

On January 12, Mayor de Blasio's office announced that the city will be relocating the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims (honored as the father of modern gynecology despite the fact that his medical experiments were performed on enslaved Black women) and take several additional steps to inform the public of the statue's historical context. As you may remember, NAPW joined East Harlem Preservation and many others demanding that the statue located in East Harlem be removed. We also produced a NAPW Webinar: Racism, Reproductive Justice, & the Monument to Dr. J. Marion Sims that addressed the full history, the controversy, and where we might go in the future.

Also on January 12, NAPW issued a response condemning a Montana County Attorney's public statement calling for a "crackdown" on pregnant women. According to the statement, every pregnant woman should be constantly monitored for the use of alcohol or non-medically prescribed drugs, turned in to state authorities by friends, family members, health care providers and strangers, and become subject to court orders of protection that may be enforced through arrest and incarceration to "incapacitate" expecting mothers. Pregnant women are advised to "immediately self-report" to the Department of Health and Human Services to avoid prosecution. You can read the statement and our response HERE.

Because we document and fight punishment of pregnant women, we know that a single County Attorney's statement can ignite similar responses by prosecutors across the country. That is why we were quick to voice our opposition and to reach out to allies at national and local organizations to do the same. We hope that our early, strong opposition will put an end to this latest blatant misuse of power and counter the dangerous and misleading ideas it promotes about pregnant women. You can help by calling Big Horn County Attorney Gerald "Jay" Harris at (406) 665-9721 or emailing at JHarris@BigHornCountyMT.gov and reminding him that there is zero evidence that punitive approaches targeting pregnant women improve maternal, fetal, or child health.

We are asking you to join us at the Women's March on New York City on Saturday, January 20. NAPW will gather at 11am on the SE corner of 73rd Street/Columbus Avenue and march the route. If you can't make it to NYC, please represent NAPW in your local area by carrying signs with our Knocked Up, Fight Back! graphics. You can find instructions for making NAPW signs on our blog. Please take a picture of yourself and send it to us at info@AdvocatesForPregnantWomen.org or share on our Facebook.

These kinds of activities, including the ability to respond quickly to shocking events like the Montana County Attorney's statement, would not be possible without your support.

Please help us continue our work and join us at our Spring Celebration!

January 21, 2018

State of the Union: Who will defend and advocate for the pregnant woman?

During the January 2018 State of the Union address, we heard President Trump declare that his "administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need." But rather than describing how the government will expand access to drug treatment (and no plans have been put forward for an increase in funding this year) he launched into a story about a police officer in New Mexico who saw "a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin." According to the President, the police officer, who "felt God speak to him," embodied the "goodness of our nation" by adopting the woman's baby.

Left out of what a Slate.com commentary correctly describes as a "bizarre" story is anything more about the pregnant woman. Who was she? Why was she homeless? What in her past and present life lead her to use heroin? Was her pregnancy consensual? Where could she have gone for help? Could she have gotten an abortion if she had wanted one? Could she have gotten support for going to term? If she had gone for help would she have been shamed by health care providers, charged with a crime, and/or reported as a child abuser?

All of these things have happened to pregnant women in New Mexico and across the country.

NAPW is the organization defending pregnant women from police, prosecutors, and yes, from our current President. His story dehumanizes pregnant women and creates the illusion that fundamental problems -- such as lack of health care -- including drug treatment, maternal and reproductive health care -- can be solved by divinely directed individual acts of charity (adoption).

Help NAPW tell a different, truthful story. We are grateful for all the individuals including family, friends, and neighbors who try to help one another. But NAPW needs your support to fight for justice; for a government that ensures dignity and equality for everyone including pregnant women.

Please help support NAPW by donating through this link.

January 12, 2018

NAPW Statement Condemning Call for Arrest of Pregnant Women

National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) Rejects Montana County Prosecutor's Call to Implement "The Handmaid's Tale"

NAPW Advises Pregnant Women Not to "Self-Report" and the Public to Reject Incoherent and Inaccurate Claims Regarding Pregnant Women

On January 11, 2018, the Big Horn County Attorney's Office issued an announcement calling for the "immediate crackdown" on pregnant women that is outrageous, irresponsible, and dangerous to women, children, and families. According to this statement, every pregnant woman should be constantly monitored for the use of alcohol or non-medically prescribed drugs, turned in to state authorities by friends, family members, health care providers and strangers, and become subject to court orders of protection that may be enforced through arrest and incarceration to "incapacitate" expecting mothers. Pregnant women are advised to "immediately self-report" to the Department of Health and Human Services to avoid prosecution. The County Attorney also calls on other prosecutors throughout Montana to join him in this reckless call to hunt down pregnant women. NAPW is shocked by this attack on the health, liberty, and basic human rights of women in Big Horn County.

In fact, the County Attorney has no legal authority to institute or carry out such a policy. This is a blatant disregard for the rule of law, and enforcement would violate Montana and U.S. law. People who heed the prosecutor's call to report pregnant women and violate patient privacy and confidentiality may themselves be subject to legal action. In addition, there is zero scientific evidence supporting policies of coercion and punishment directed to pregnant women. Such policies in fact discourage women from seeking health care and could coerce women in to having unwanted abortions. Indeed, the announcement recognizes that fear of arrest could lead some women to have abortions but appears to be asking the state Attorney General to take action against those women as well.

Fortunately, we know that the greatest threat to the health and well-being of children is not from their own mothers who (at risk to their own lives and health) gave birth to them. This statement irresponsibly promotes medical and scientific misinformation, promotes an environment of fear and reflects a shocking disregard for the rights and well-being of women and families.

NAPW supports the right of all people, including pregnant women, to accessible and confidential health care. NAPW cautions women against "self reporting" to government agencies that are being empowered to detain them, and further urges every medical and public health provider in Big Horn County to immediately oppose this dangerous, unethical, and counterproductive policy.

Everyone who supports the health, dignity and human rights of pregnant women can contact the Big Horn County, County Attorney Gerald "Jay" Harris at (406) 665-9721 to let him know you oppose this outrageous action.

For more information, please contact Shawn Steiner, Media and Communications Manager, NAPW: SCS@AdvocatesforPregnantWomen.org | 212.255.9252 | 917.497.3037

To read the Public Notice/Press Release from the Big Horn County Attorney's Office please click here.

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