In the States
This section contains articles, commentary, and updates about state court, state legislative, and other state based policies concerning pregnant and parenting women, their families, and their communities.
State v. Greywind, No. CR-92-447 (N.D. Cass County Ct. Apr. 10, 1992).
On February 7, 1992, Martina Greywind, a twenty-eight-year-old homeless Native American woman from Fargo who was approximately twelve weeks pregnant, was arrested. She was charged with reckless endangerment based on the claim that by inhaling the vapors of paint fumes, she was creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death to her unborn child. The complaint alleged:
[The] defendant willfully created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death to another, to-wit: . . . MARTINA GREYWIND, while pregnant intentionally inhaled the vapors of a volatile chemical in violation of North Dakota Century Code 12.1-31-06 and thereby willfully created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death to her unborn child.
On February 10, 1992, Ms. Greywind, without a lawyer, initially pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to nine months at a state prison farm and ordered to participate in a chemical dependency program. After an attorney took her case, however, Ms. Greywind was allowed to withdraw her plea on February 12, 1992.
During this time, members of the Lambs of Christ were active in Fargo attempting to disrupt the Fargo Women's Health Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota. The Lambs of Christ is a loosely organized group of Roman Catholics who "focus on the rescue of unborn children." They had been in North Dakota since March and members of their group had been repeatedly jailed. News stories about the case reported that members of the group who had been arrested attempted to befriend Ms. Greywind while they were in jail together.
According to court records and the press, Lambs of Christ spokesperson Ronald Maxson posted $100 for a $1000 personal recognizance bond for Ms. Greywind. Nine hours after her release on bail, Ms. Greywind was re-arrested because police allegedly caught her sniffing paint again. She pleaded guilty to illegal inhalation of chemical vapors and was transferred to the state mental hospital. The State's Attorney said Ms. Greywind was to spend thirty days in the hospital or jail as her sentence. On February 20, 1992, a lawyer for the Lambs of Christ filed a petition seeking to have the woman's brother, Ken Greywind, appointed her legal guardian, apparently in an effort to prevent Ms. Greywind from having an abortion. According to an affidavit filed by Mr. Greywind, "I believe she is contemplating an abortion in order to have the charge of reckless endangerment dismissed and get out of jail so she can continue to abuse her body." The court denied Mr. Greywind’s petition.
On February 21, 1992 the State and Ms. Greywind entered a stipulation -- an agreement between the parties -- that Ms. Greywind “be released from the Cass County Jail for the following medical and/or psychological appointment: February 22, 1992, at 11:00 A.M.” According to press reports, this release enabled Ms. Greywind to obtain an abortion at the Fargo Women’s Health Clinic. Ms. Greywind obtained the abortion, despite widely-publicized efforts by abortion opponents to persuade her to carry the pregnancy to term including a financial offer conveyed by the Lambs of Christ of at least $10,000. Ms. Greywind expressed a desire to have the abortion, but also her inability to pay the cost of the procedure. North Dakota law prohibited state funding of abortion. According to the press, anonymous donors offered to pay for the $300-400 cost of her abortion. On February 24, 1992, Mr. Maxson of the Lambs of Christ requested that the $100 bail be returned to him. The request was granted.
On March 30, 1992, Ms. Greywind filed a motion to dismiss the charges arguing that “the State in this case [was] seeking to criminalize the pregnancy of a drug-addicted woman by applying a strained and unforeseen construction of the North Dakota reckless endangerment statute," as well as other grounds including the fact that the abortion rendered the case moot. Assistant Cass County Prosecutor Steve Dawson then filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice stating:
On February 10, 1992 [Martina Greywind] was charged with the offense of Reckless Endangerment, a class A misdemeanor. The defendant has recently undergone treatment at the North Dakota State Hospital and is presently in custody at the Cass County Jail on a subsequent and pending charge of Inhalation of Volatile Chemicals in violation of N.D.C.C. Section 12.1-31-06. Defendant has made it known to the State that she has terminated her pregnancy. Consequently, the controversial legal issues presented are no longer ripe for litigation. Further, the likelihood of this extreme factual situation recurring is limited. In the interest of preserving limited prosecutorial and judicial resources, Plaintiff hereby moves to dismiss the Complaint in this action with prejudice.
According to news reports, the prosecutor in the case stated that since Ms. Greywind had the abortion, it was “no longer worth the time or expense to prosecute her.” On April 10, 1992, the child endangerment charge was dismissed.
NAPW has, for some time, been encouraging attorneys who represent mothers in civil child neglect proceedings ("family defense lawyers") to challenge neglect and abuse charges based on positive drug tests.
On February 7, 2012, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Legal Voice and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the case of Jennie McCormack v. Hiedeman. We are very grateful to Legal Voice for finding counsel, Kathleen M. O’Sullivan, Breena M. Roos, and Ashley A. Locke, of Perkins Coie LLP to work with NAPW and to file this amicus brief on behalf of our organizations. The McCormick case is discussed in this Daily Beast article.
50 Leading Medical, Public Health and Child Welfare Organizations and Experts File Brief Insisting on Science not Stigma in Child Welfare Decisions Involving Pregnant Women and Allegations of Drug Use
Why the Americans United For Life Bill --Justifying the Use of Deadly Force to Protect an Unborn Child -- Is Dangerous to Pregnant Women
Treat, don't jail, addicted mothers
By Susan Barron and Robert Walker
Some lawmakers and law enforcers mistakenly believe that the best way to respond to the problem of drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy is to arrest the women. Kentucky's laws, however, provide for a more effective solution. This state has for decades been committed to improving maternal, fetal and child health through smart public health and education policies that have been proven to work. Unfortunately, those on the front lines of this problem — police, social workers, welfare officials and hospital employees — all too often have not had the benefit of learning from experts in the field...
NAPW ally Ilene Ordower published an op ed challenging Missouri bills designed to further limit access to abortion services: Bills to "protect" women who seek abortions ignore the needs of women going to term.
At the request of activists in Tennessee, NAPW analyzed two 2009 bills in Tennessee concerning pregnant women. Pursuant to Tennessee bills SB1065 and HB0890, pregnant women who meet certain criteria would be tested for alcohol and drugs in order to encourage them to seek immediate treatment for an alcohol-related or drug- related problem. Our analysis of the bills makes clear that this legislation lacked foundation in evidence based research and would undermine, rather than promote maternal, fetal, and child health. It is our understanding that the bill was withdrawn in March of 2009.
Georgia names January 19, 2007 "Ensuring the Health and Humanity of Pregnant and Birthing Women Day"
The Georgia General Assembly has passed House Resolution 17 by: Representatives Thomas of the 55th, Abdul-Salaam of the 74th, Benfield of the 85th, Beasley-Teague of the 65th, and Sinkfield of the 60th. The resolution recognizes National Advocates for Pregnant Women's National Summit to Ensure the Health and Humanity of Pregnant and Birthing Women and proclaiming January 19, 2007, as Ensuring the Health and Humanity of Pregnant and Birthing Women Day in Georgia; and for other purposes.
Peligro en el voto
por L. Indra Lusero y Lynn M. Paltrow
Imaginemos una ley que establece que con el embarazo la mujer pierde el derecho a la integridad del cuerpo, la vida y la libertad. ¿Parece descabellado? Lamentablemente, la respuesta es “no, de ninguna manera”. De hecho, en Colorado existe un proyecto de ley con tal fin llamado “Enmienda sobre la vida humana” para la Constitución del Estado. La enmienda, bajo el número 48 en la papeleta de votación de noviembre, declara que el término persona incluye a “todo ser humano desde el momento de la concepción” y daría al feto “derechos inalienables, igualdad ante la justicia y el debido proceso legal”.
De acuerdo a Kristi Burton, vocera de la campaña a favor de esta enmienda, la campaña se trata de “el poder de la verdad”. La verdad es, sin embargo, que esta enmienda tendrá consecuencias nefastas para las mujeres embarazadas y será peligrosa para la salud materna y fetal.
Read Julie Burkhart's compelling and personal response to efforts to use the murder of a 14 year old pregnant girl as a basis for passing an Unborn Victims of Violence Act law in Kansas. (It is the commentary on the second page!)
Supreme Court of New Mexico Strikes Down State’s Attempt to Convict Woman Struggling with Addiction During Pregnancy.
Leading Physicians, Scientific Researchers, and Medical, Public Health, and Child Welfare Organizations Applaud Court’s Order
New Mexico Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Case Involving Prosecution of Woman Struggling with Addiction During Pregnancy
Leading Physicians, Scientific Researchers, and Medical, Public Health, and Child Welfare Organizations Oppose Treating Pregnant Women Who Give Birth in Spite of a Drug Problem as Felony Child Abusers
Despite the many issues affecting women's health and lives, bills to further restrict abortion are likely to be the primary focus of your legislature's session this year. As a result of this extensive attention to this one aspect of pregnant women's lives, chances are that your state legislature will not address many other health issues of concern to pregnant women and mothers — not breast cancer nor heart disease, not the lack of health insurance for millions of women and children nor the lack of access to mother-friendly childbirth. Here are some suggestions for action you and your state can take to ensure that policies to advance a culture of life, values the women who give that life:
The Ohio Middletown Journal
By Lynn T. Singer and Tiloma Jayasinghe
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Three-year-old Marcus Fiesel's life was cut tragically short when he was murdered, allegedly, by his foster parents. He was placed in foster care by Butler County. Now some Ohio officials are seeking to distract attention from how the foster care system failed by focusing attention instead on drug- and alcohol-using pregnant women. These officials want to make it a felony offense for a woman to continue her pregnancy to term in spite of a drug or alcohol problem. It would be criminal for a woman to give birth to a child who tests positive for drugs or who evidences developmental delays as a result of alcohol use.
Rapid City, South Dakota - South Dakota attorney Catherine Ratliff along with Massachusetts's lawyer Connie Rudnick and National Advocates for Pregnant Women released a letter to KOTA television refuting the false allegations written in a letter to the station by the law firm Murphy, Goldammer & Prendergast, representing VoteYesForLife.com, about a recent television advertisement sponsored by opponents of South Dakota's proposed law that would ban virtually all women from obtaining legal abortions.
South Dakota allies Barbara Chapman and Karen Miller, in an op ed featured in the Rapid City Journal challenge the lies some doctors are telling about the new law that would ban virtually all South Dakota women from legal abortion services.
Women's eNews features a commentary, Jailing Pregnant Women Raises Health Risks by former NAPW legal intern/NYU law student Julie Ehrlich and Lynn Paltrow.
Recent Arrests and Convictions
• July 2006, Gaffney: Hannah Lauren Jolly, 20 was charged with “unlawful child neglect” based on the claim that her newborn baby tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. Jolly relinquished her newborn to nurses at a hospital and was therefore protected from prosecution for abandonment by Daniel’s Law, also known as the Abandoned Babies Act. Nevertheless, after the child tested positive for drugs, police tracked Ms. Jolly down and arrested her.
• March 2006, Clearwater: Betty L. Staley, 28, was charged with “unlawful neglect” after her daughter allegedly tested positive for cocaine at birth.
• February 2006, Aiken: Carolyn Michelle Wright, 27, was charged with “unlawful neglect” based on the claim that she tested positive for cocaine use when she went to a hospital.
• January 2006, Easley: Jennifer Lee Arrowood, 38, was arrested for “homicide by child abuse” after suffering a placental abruption and giving birth to a stillborn son. The state claimed that Ms. Arrowood’s drug use was the cause of this pregnancy loss. Charges were reduced to unlawful neglect of a child. Ms. Arrowood was convicted January 23, 2006, and received a 10-year prison sentence.
On May 30, 2006, the South Dakota Healthy Families Campaign sent a big thank you to its grassroots activists who collected more than twice the number of signatures needed to challenge South Dakota's law banning abortion. Entitled: 37,846: Thank You! they wrote:
Today, South Carolina's leading newspaper ran a commentary by two members of the South Carolina Women's Health Coalition, a coalition NAPW has been helping to support. KATHRYN LUCHOK AND SARAH GAREAU explain how the state's latest fetal rights bill purports to protect pregnant women, but actually undermines them.
The Court of Appeals will consider tomorrow the opinion of more than 50 national medical, public health, child welfare, and drug treatment experts that prosecution of addicted mothers is counterproductive to the mother, the welfare of the child, and the interests of society.
Tex. Court Overturns Convictions Under 'Fetal Rights' Law
by Michelle Chen . . .
Pointing to a stark imbalance between punitive measures and health
resources, Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women said that
pregnant women with substance-abuse problems too often lack access to
appropriate treatment facilities in their communities. Prosecutions
based on fetal-rights laws, she said, "create the illusion that there is
treatment... when in all sorts of healthcare areas, patients of all
kinds, and particularly ones... who have drug problems, are completely
Today in a 3-0 unanimous decision, the Seventh Court of Appeals of Texas reversed the convictions of Tracy Ward and Rhonda Smith.
By Lynn Paltrow and Charon Asetoyer
March 08, 2006
Lynn Paltrow is the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women in New York and Charon Asetoyer is the executive director of the Native American Women's Health and Education Resource Center in South Dakota.
This week South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed a law that bans almost all abortions in the state. Neither the governor nor the law's supporters have been honest about what the effect of the law will be.
Those who authored the law want to create impression that only the people providing the abortions will be punished, not the women having them. They are not brave enough enough to admit what is clear: women will be punished and they and their families will suffer if this law goes into effect.
Wyndi Anderson of National Advocates for Pregnant Women told me via email that this kind of law isn't exactly a new idea: "[Similar bills have] been shot down in other states because in the end it is bad for the very infants they say they want to help. If we really want to provide an opportunity for women to have healthy pregnancies then we need to think about ways we can support women and their families. These type of measures are almost always someone trying to further their career because no one who understands addiction and cares about children and women would dare to pass such a law."
By Nancy Goldstein | RAW STORY COLUMNIST
What would it look like to really turn the abortion debate on its head?
"If you want to hurt babies, you pass this law," said Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. "Drug abuse is a health problem. Health care in prisons is hideous."
In September of 2005, NAPW had an extraordinary opportunity to test the theory that by building on the lessons learned from our clients, our concurrent work on drug policy reform, and Terry McGovern's research on building grassroots pro-choice activism, we could begin to go on the offensive in our efforts to advance reproductive and social justice in America. On September 22nd, Executive Director Lynn Paltrow testified by telephone before the South Dakota Task Force on abortion. Along with other experts--pro and anti-choice--NAPW participated in an event clearly intended to lay the groundwork for new and even more punitive restrictions on access to abortion services in South Dakota and nationwide. During the testimony NAPW challenged the task force by asking why it was ignoring the health concerns of the majority of pregnant women including the ones who continue to term and the ones who suffer miscarriages and stillbirths.
Posted on Tue, Mar. 15, 2005
Florida should take care of the children it already has
By Lynn Paltrow
In early March, Gov. Jeb Bush and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings announced a plan to spend $4 million to finance a hot line that would counsel women with unwanted pregnancies to continue their pregnancies to term.
It is clear, however, that neither Bush nor Jennings is serious about reducing abortion rates. What they are serious about is keeping our attention focused on the abortion issue while they act like the proverbial deadbeat dad and welfare queen spending taxpayer dollars for their pet projects instead of on the children they already have.
Briefing Paper to: Democratic Presidential Candidates
This documents the cases of an estimated 167 women who have been arrested on criminal charges because of their behavior during pregnancy or because they became pregnant while addicted to drugs. The cases are from twenty-four states. A disproportionate number of these cases come from just two states, Florida and South Carolina, and are concentrated in two counties in each of those states. This article is posted here with the permission of the American Civil Liberties Union.