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July 11, 2019

Thousands Seek End to Forced Cesareans in NY and Justice for Rinat Dray

Today thousands of New Yorkers and others in the U.S. and from around the world are demanding that Northwell Health eliminate policies and practices that authorize forced or coerced medical interventions on pregnant patients in their facilities. Through a petition organized by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and delivered today to Northwell’s CEO and Board of Trustees, thousands of people join in calling on Northwell to ensure that no pregnant patient is again denied her constitutional and statutory rights to medical decision-making and bodily integrity as Rinat Dray was at Northwell's Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH).

Eight years after being forced to have cesarean surgery which injured her bladder, Rinat Dray has sued but has not received justice. The hospital and personnel who carried out the damaging surgery continue to defend their actions on the same grounds asserted in the recent prosecution of Marshae Jones in Alabama – that a pregnant woman has no right to put an “unborn” child in a dangerous situation. In the prosecution of Ms. Jones the dangerous situation was being pregnant and the victim of a shooting; in the Dray case it was being pregnant and continuing her labor rather than consenting to cesarean surgery.

The actions taken against Ms. Dray were authorized by SIUH’s written policy entitled “Managing Maternal Refusals” that allowed doctors and hospital counsel to override the decisions a pregnant woman makes about her body and her life. In 2018 The New York State Department of Health found that this policy violates New York’s Patients’ Bill of Rights, and directed SIUH to correct the violation.

The petition calls on Northwell to:

1. Immediately rescind all “Managing Maternal Refusal” and similar policies in Northwell’s hospital system and make any new policies addressing “maternal refusal” public.

2. Acknowledge the harms done to Rinat Dray and help her find resolution.

3. Ensure that all Northwell doctors and hospital personnel are trained in their ethical duties to honor the decisions of pregnant patients and to uphold patient rights including a pregnant woman’s right to refuse medical interventions.

4. Establish policies to affirm that women, including pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy, are fully and equally protected in Northwell facilities by the U.S. Constitution, International Human Rights principles, the New York State Patients’ Bill of Rights, and all established common law principles regarding patient consent, privacy and confidentiality.

Unfortunately, in New York and all over the world, women experience violence and disrespect during pregnancy and birth. The first ever community led study on experience of childbirth care in the United States, released in June, found that one in six women — regardless of race — experience mistreatment by health care providers during birth. Incidents of mistreatment are higher for women of color.

Northwell Health is the largest health care system in New York State and it should lead New York and the world in ensuring that pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy are fully and equally protected by the U.S. Constitution, the New York State Patients’ Bill of Rights, and legal principles regarding patient consent, privacy and confidentiality.

For more information or to speak with a representative from the NAPW legal team, please contact: Shawn Steiner, SCS@AdvocatesforPregnantWomen.org, 917.497.3037

July 5, 2019

NAPW Open Letters in the case of Ms. Roberta J. Baker in St. Francois County, Missouri

In February 2018, Ms Roberta Baker, a mother in St. Francois County, Missouri who lost her baby around 24 hours after giving birth, was charged with felony child abuse and neglect. Ms. Baker did not receive health care during her pregnancy and birth because she did not have a health care provider she could access or trust. She gave birth to a premature baby at home. The baby seemed ok to her at birth and for many hours after, but despite the baby’s grandmother calling 9-1-1 and attempting CPR when the baby was in distress, the baby did not survive. Ms. Baker was charged criminally, was refused bail and was incarcerated for a year awaiting trial.

Before her trial in May 2019, NAPW submitted an open letter to the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney asking her to drop the charges against Ms. Baker because the prosecution was largely based on allegations about Ms. Baker’s actions during pregnancy, and no woman can guarantee a healthy birth outcome.

Ms. Baker was convicted on May 16th, 2019 of a lesser offense than she was originally charged with: an “B”-level felony instead of “A.” This removed the "causing death" element of the original felony child abuse charge.

Nonetheless, Ms. Baker is facing sentencing according to the "A" level sentencing range because of a previous record. She faces 10-30 years or life in prison.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 19th, 2019, and NAPW has learned that the judge will accept letters for consideration at sentencing. NAPW created, organized and sent an open letter to the judge, the Honorable Wendy Wexler Horn, asking for leniency in sentencing, signed by 28 physicians, health care professionals, public health advocates, legal advocates and experts in reproductive health.

You can find this open letter here.

July 2, 2019

National Advocates for Pregnant Women and If/When/How Letter to FDA Opposing Restrictions on Abortion Medication

National Advocates for Pregnant Women and If/When/How wrote and organized a letter sent to the FDA, signed by organizations and experts in reproductive health and rights, public health, harm reduction, and HIV/AIDS. The letter opposes the recent warning letters targeting mifepristone and misoprostol as dangerous, and urges the FDA to remove the REMS for mife. The signatories urge the FDA to revoke the warning letters issued to websites allegedly distributing these medications to consumers in light of the worsening landscape for access to safe abortion in the U.S., and remove the unnecessary and onerous REMS that prevent people from accessing safe and effective medications.

Click here to read the letter.


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