The Abortion Diversion

NAPW sees the common threads and threats connecting all women, regardless of their views on abortion. For too long the abortion controversy has been used as a weapon of distraction and family destruction. For example, while President Bush was signing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act into law and declaring his commitment to a culture of life, he was also deregulating coal burning power plants. These plants release significant amounts of mercury into the environment, which is especially poisonous to fetuses and children. The administration uses fetal rights, anti-abortion legislation to distract us from these attacks on family health.

While President Bush was making it a federal crime to attack the fetus, federal funding for the Violence Against Women Act was being reduced for programs designed to protect women, including pregnant women, from the extraordinary violence they experience across race, class and state lines. Indeed, it has now been documented that the leading cause of maternal death in America is murder of pregnant women. While President Bush was reinterpreting the State's Child Health Insurance Program to allow states to cover unborn children, 43 million Americans, including eight and a half million children, were without health care coverage and nearly 20 percent of children were living in poverty.

While abortion issues are used to create a political wedge between women, women are in fact united by the fact that America is one of only three industrialized nations that does not require any paid parental leave. Similarly, millions of pregnant women, especially those who work part-time or for small companies - regardless of their views on abortion - lack legal protection from workplace discrimination based on pregnancy.

Moreover, women, regardless of their views on abortion, or if they have ever had one, are likely to spend significant time working as mothers and homemakers. This labor makes up a huge part of our gross domestic product, yet it is ignored or trivialized. A recent New York Times story, "Survey Confirms It: Women Outjuggle Men," reported that the average working woman spends about twice as much time as the average working man on household chores and child-care. According to this headline and the political culture it represents, childcare and homemaking are what clowns do, requiring some skill at balancing but no real work.

Each year 6.3 million women become pregnant. The vast majority continue those pregnancies to term. These women are neither celebrated nor supported by our government. From employment discrimination, to lack of paid parental leave, to state scrutiny and possible punishment, pregnant women and mothers face a wide array of state policies that undermine them and their families. In addition, as a result of the war on drugs, the fastest growing prison population is mothers.

Those who favor the existing policies that are redirecting American resources to the wealthiest have been canny in deflecting attention away from these underlying economic and political issues, for example, by focusing national attention on the divisive abortion and drug war controversies and such highly charged myths as the so called "crack baby syndrome." (See Pregnancy and Drug Use: The Facts for more on this).

While abortion issues are used to divide the U.S. electorate, women - whether pro or anti-choice - living in red or blue states - are united by health, economic, criminal justice, environmental and drug policies that are undermining the ability of mothers and fathers to provide, protect and care for their families. NAPW believes that by acknowledging these commonalities, recognizing the intersections, and focusing on more than just the right to choose abortion, we can advance a positive, effective, and successful long-term reproductive and social justice agenda.

In this section you will find articles exposing the abortion issue for what it is - a diversion from pressing economic, public health and family life issues. This section includes discussion of past and current strategies designed to continue this distraction and new strategies that we can use to reframe and refocus public attention on the pressing question of: Does your family and community have the support it needs?

If Roe Goes -- Graphic

September 28, 2018

Dismantling Roe v. Wade Would Affect All Pregnant Women

January 12, 2010

NAPW and More than 100 Signatories Request That Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Consider Impact on All Pregnant Women

On June 22, 2009 National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) released to the public a letter with more than 100 signatories sent to the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate requesting that the Committee ask Judge Sonia Sotomayor and all future Supreme Court nominees: Is there a point in pregnancy when you believe women lose their civil rights? This letter, discussed in Rachel Roth's RhRealityCheck Commentary, addresses the harm that will result if abortion is outlawed and provides concrete examples of civil rights violations against pregnant women that undermine both maternal and fetal health and that would occur routinely if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Utah Bill Creating the Crime of Criminal Homicide of an Unborn Child Will Affect All Pregnant Women

January 12, 2010

Utah Representative Carl Wimmer has proposed a bill, H.B. 12, which purports to make it a crime for a woman to solicit a non-physician abortion or to perform an abortion on herself, at all stages of pregnancy. It permits certain abortions if performed by physicians. What the sponsor claims to want to accomplish with this legislation is to ensure that self-abortions may be punished as murder or attempted murder. The bill, however, is written in such a way as to affect all pregnant women including those who have no intention of ending a pregnancy. This bill, if enacted, would apply to any and all pregnancy losses even at the earliest stages of pregnancy and to all actions, inactions, conditions and circumstances that may be characterized or perceived as a threat to the life of an unborn child—regardless of the woman’s intent.

You can download our analysis of the bill here.

Killing for Life Returns

September 14, 2009

NAPW board member Carol Mason wrote this fascinating commentary on deadly tactics used against abortion providers, a follow-up to her previous book Killing for Life. Mason is an Associate Professor and Director of Gender and Women's Studies at Oklahoma State University. She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota and was a recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation for the Humanities Scholar in Residence grant in 2002.

How Anti-Abortion Measures Threaten ALL Pregnant Women

October 29, 2008

Please watch!

NAPW'short video reminds all voters that Colorado's Amendment 48 and South Dakota's Measure 11 can hurt ALL pregnant women.

You Can Help Us Get the Word Out!

In response to numerous requests for copies of NAPW presentations on this issue, we thought it would be helpful to make this more accessible, abbreviated video version. We urge you to spread the word, and forward this You Tube video link to all your allies and partners. Your efforts will help support a real culture of life…one that supports and values the women who give that life.

Does Your State Value the Women Who Give Life?

March 01, 2007

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:
Download file

Testify and watch the right run

March 12, 2006

By Nancy Goldstein | RAW STORY COLUMNIST

What would it look like to really turn the abortion debate on its head?

Florida should take care of the children it already has

March 15, 2005

Tallahassee Democrat
Posted on Tue, Mar. 15, 2005
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.

Abortion Issue Divides, Distracts Us From Common Threats and Threads

March 12, 2005

Download PDF file

By: Lynn M. Paltrow, published in Perspectives, Volume 13, No.3, Winter 2005

I started my career defending a woman's right to choose abortion and now run National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an organization that works on behalf of pregnant women and families. No, I haven't had a political or religious conversion. What I have had is the opportunity to see how the abortion issue distracts us from shared political and family values.

Pregnant Drug Users, Fetal Persons and the Threat to Roe v. Wade

January 13, 1999

Download PDF file

By: Lynn Paltrow, 62 Albany Law Review 999 (1999)

Roe v. Wade marked only the beginning of the struggle for reproductive justice for all women. Many women fall outside of its "core" protections. Among these are drug addicted pregnant women. This article addresses how the arrest and prosecution of these women, based on claims of fetal personhood, reflect the extent to which Roe is vulnerable. By linking anti-abortion arguments to other highly-charged political issues and to particularly marginalized groups of women, anti-choice advocates have made significant inroads on the limited rights won in Roe v. Wade. Twenty-five years after Roe v. Wade's decision that fetuses are not legal persons, claims of fetal personhood are gaining unprecedented legal recognition while the struggle for women's rights and full constitutional personhood remains far from finished.


  • If Roe Goes -- Graphic
    if-roe-goes-website-2.png Sources: Lynn M. Paltrow & Jeanne Flavin, Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973-2005: Implications for Women’s Legal Status and Public health, 38 J. Health Pol., Pol’y & L. 299 (2013); Nina Martin, Take a Valium Lose your Kid, Go to Jail, ProPublica; NAPW internal files