A Statement from National Advocates for Pregnant Women: The Dangerous Litigation That Sells Out Science and Hurts Women and Babies

In the context of the nationwide litigation seeking to hold pharmaceutical companies liable for the over-prescription of opioids in the U.S, a team of private lawyers calling themselves the “Opioid Justice League” is seeking court approval to separately represent the interests of children born to women who used opioids during pregnancy. This group of private attorneys has sometimes or alternatively identified their separate interest as one in representing “all women capable of becoming pregnant.” By distinguishing themselves from hundreds of other lawsuits and claims that have been combined into a single nationwide prescription opioid lawsuit, these lawyers, better described as the “Pregnancy Profiteers,” can potentially recover enormous money damages for their clients and attorneys’ fees for themselves. As evidenced by their court papers, a widely distributed press statement, and a recent Washington Post story, these lawyers are peddling dangerous myths about women, pregnancy, drug use, and the children born to women who have used opioids in any form and for any reason. They also are proposing “solutions” that will undermine the health and rights of women, mothers, and babies.

In implementing a shocking legal strategy that should alarm all women and anyone concerned with public health in the U.S., the Pregnancy Profiteers have also attempted to leapfrog their cases ahead of the others by asking for an urgent order (preliminary injunction) requiring that no woman “capable of becoming pregnant” be allowed to receive any opioid medication for any reason until she had first been tested for pregnancy and determined not to be pregnant. Even if she tested negative for pregnancy, the woman would only be allowed to receive an opioid based medication for seven days and then would be cut off unless she was tested again and able to demonstrate she had not become pregnant.

The Pregnancy Profiteers’ court filings and public statements have made false, medically unsubstantiated, and dangerous claims about the impact of opioid use by pregnant women. Similar claims about pregnant women’s drug use in the past have led to the arrest, prosecution, detention, and forced treatment of pregnant women and to government action stigmatizing and traumatizing children born to those women. These lawyers go even further. Not only do they promote wholly unsubstantiated claims about the impact of opioid use, they are also advocating for public policy that would delay or deny needed medical care to all women capable of becoming pregnant.

NAPW calls on the plaintiffs and parties in the nationwide opioid litigation, courts,
journalists, and members of the public who care about the health and well-being of women and children to reject the stigmatizing medical misinformation and dangerous recommendations of the Pregnancy Profiteers.

For more information, please see our Fact Sheet

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1. Lawyers’ press release, PRNewswire, “Landmark Legal Injunction Filed to Stop Prescription-Related Opioid-Dependent Births to Opioid-Using Women,” Mar. 29, 2019
2. L. Bernstein, “Babies Born After Opioid Exposure Deserve Legal Recognition, Lawyers Argue,” Washington Post, Aug. 22, 2019, available at http://bit.ly/WPAug22-2019

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