Battles Over Women’s Reproductive Rights Rage All Over Nation

Rewire Editor in Chief, Jodi Jacobson, joined Sonali Kolhatkar on Uprising radio to discuss the 43 anti-woman bills that have passed state legislatures in 2013, with a special focus on Texas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

About to become measure number 44 is Texas’ controversial abortion ban. Just a few weeks after Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis famously helped to kill an anti-abortion bill via an epic filibuster, it was revived by Gov. Rick Perry this week and passed by the state house yesterday.

In Wisconsin, a judge has blocked enforcement of an abortion bill after groups filed a lawsuit against it.

And North Carolina lawmakers will vote today on a bill on motorcycle safety, to which, bizarrely, anti-abortion legislation has been attached.

These are only a fraction of the battles raging over women’s reproductive rights all over the nation.

NPR: A Sharper Abortion Debate After Gosnell Verdict

The murder conviction in Philadelphia of Kermit Gosnell in the deaths of three babies and one of his female patients is likely to further inflame the already heated abortion debate. Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson is interviewed in this report by NPR’s Julie Rovner:

Abortion rights backers insist he’s an outlier.

“The fact is that what he did was illegal — unethical, unscrupulous, illegal,” says Jodi Jacobson. “And it bears no comparison to safe abortion care or even late abortion care, because he performed abortions post-viability on women without indications for such, so they were illegal.”

Jacobson, who runs , an online daily news service about reproductive rights and sexual politics, says most states already have laws that bar abortions late in pregnancy — except when there are medical reasons.

“If you have a late abortion situation in the third trimester, you are facing either a threat to the life or the health of the mother, or a fetus with anomalies incompatible with life,” she says.

Listen above and

Texas Lawmakers Seek to Close ‘Loopholes’ in Minors’ Access to Abortion


Andrea Grimes: This is Andrea Grimes, reporting from Austin, Texas, for Rewire.

Grimes: During this legislative session, Texas lawmakers have proposed three different bills that would change laws that deal with minors who seek abortions in the state. Currently, Texas requires both parental notification and parental consent for a minor who wants an abortion.

Grimes: Now, lawmakers are arguing that there are “loopholes” that currently allow girls to go behind the backs of otherwise loving, supportive parents who lawmakers say should be involved in their daughters’ reproductive decisions.

Grimes: Here’s Representative Matt Krause, the author of one of the proposed bills:

Rep. Matt Krause: “House Bill 3302 seeks to add on to and improve the steps that were taken by the legislature in 1999, where we started the parental consent in areas such as this, 2005, or parental notification in 1999. In 2005, we added the layer of parental consent. And this bill seeks to kind of meld and harmonize the two. In many of the sections we add consent and the notification. That’s part of the goal behind 3302. Not only that, but it seeks to close some of the loopholes in the judicial bypass system.”

Grimes: Currently, minors seeking abortions in Texas can have their case heard by a judge in any county—this helps protect the anonymity of minors who might be recognized at their local courthouse—and have to show the judge one of three things. One, that they’re mature and well informed enough about their options to get an abortion without parnetal notification or consent. Two, that it’s not in the minor’s best interest for a parent or guardian to be notified, or three, that notification might result in physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Grimes: The newly proposed bills would increase the burden of proof required to establish any of those three tenets from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a standard used only in the most extreme family law cases involving minor emancipation. Two of the new bills would also ask a judge to decide not only whether he or she believes the minor has made a good case against parental consent and notification, but whether the abortion itself is in the minor’s best interest.

Grimes: The newly proposed bills would also require some minors who live in small counties to have their cases heard in their home county. They would appoint a guardian ad litem—such as a member of the clergy, a psychiatrist or a representative from state health services—to argue for parental involvement.  And they would give judges more time to make a decision in the minor’s case and generate reports about which judges have granted judicial bypasses.

Grimes: The fact is, minors who enter into the judicial bypass process usually do so because they don’t have any parents available to consent, or because they fear physical, sexual or emotional harm from their parents because of their pregnancy.

Deena Kalai: “There are kids who have had long histories of abuse at their parents’ hands and are terrified that once the parent finds out that they’re pregnant that they’re either going to cause harm to the kid who’s calling or maybe to the boyfriend. Some cited that parents own guns and they’re fearful for their boyfriends’ lives.”

Grimes: That’s Deena Kalai, a Texas attorney who represents minors seeking judicial bypasses.

Grimes: I talked to Deena Kalai, an attorney in Austin, Texas who often works with an organization called Jane’s Due Process, which helps guide minors through the judicial bypass process. I asked her about who her clients are, and she said most of her clients are terrified by the prospect of disappointing their parents. And that’s the best case scenario.

Grimes: Deena works with a non-profit called Jane’s Due Process, which helps minors through the judicial bypass process. Many times, her clients have been told by their parents that they’ll be kicked out on the street if they come home pregnant.

Kalai: “That if they ever get pregnant that they will be kicked out of the house. They will be dead to the family, or they will get cut off and parents who were going to help them with costs of college are no longer going to do that.”

Grimes: Generally speaking, minors who can tell their parents about an unplanned pregnancy, do so. And there are lot of minors who call the Jane’s Due Process hotline, talk to a counselor, and ultimately decide to tell their parents. But judicial bypass is for those four hundred or so minors per year in Texas who, either out of fear for their own safety, or out of sheer necessity because they don’t have an available parent, need or want to have an abortion without the consent or notification of a parent.

Grimes: These newly proposed bills don’t take into account the reality of life for pregnant minors who seek a judicial bypass. These are teenage girls who live in broken or abusive homes, whose parents have abandoned them, whose parents are even incarcerated. They are not girls who, according to anti-choice legislative activist Abby Johnson, who supports the new bypass rules, are simply afraid of getting their cars taken away or being grounded. Here’s Johnson, testifying in a hearing last week:

Johnson: “Good evening, my name is Abby Johnson, the state legislative director for Americans United for Life. I’m also a former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director.”

Grimes: Here’s how Johnson, who now works as a professional anti-choice activist, described the minors she met who wanted judicial bypasses:

Johnson: “For instance, we would have a young woman come in and she would tell us she wanted to have an abortion, and we would say oh well, we’re going to have to notify your parents. And she would say oh well, I don’t want them to know because they’ll take my car away. Or, they, you know, won’t allow me to see my boyfriend any more and that would be terrible.”

Grimes: In fact, Jane’s Due Process hotline volunteers and volunteer attorneys ask their clients a lot of questions to ensure that they are not, as so many anti-choice lawmakers and activists believe, cavalier teens wishing to sneak around. It’s not easy to get a judicial bypass. It’s embarrassing. It’s stressful. It requires learning a lot about the judicial system in a very, very short amount of time.

Kalai: “Um, alright. Let’s talk about how you found out you were pregnant.”

Grimes: I was allowed to record one side of a typical Jane’s Due Process call, between attorney Deena Kalai and her teenage client. We’ll call her Jane Doe. Here are some of the questions Deena asked her client.

Kalai: “Um, before you stopped going to school, how did you do in school? What were your grades like? And so how are you preparing for the GED, is that through a class? And how else do you spend your time? What do you do? What kind of things do you do around the house? That’s great. What kind of stuff do you like to read? So, once you get the GED, do you know what you want to do after that? What are your future plans? For, to become a doctor?”

Grimes: Jane Doe, whose mother has been out of the picture since Jane was a little girl, does have people in her life who could help her: a loving boyfriend, an encouraging step-brother, a therapist she trusts. But one person she can’t trust? Her father, a deeply religious man with a violent temper who doesn’t believe in birth control.

Kalai: “And how would you describe your relationship with your father? Yeah, that’s got to be really, really scary and unpredictable. I had a dad who was like that too, so I know exactly what you’re talking about and it’s really freaky when you don’t know what’s going to set them off. What did he threaten if you ever got pregnant?”

Grimes: But without a judicial bypass, she would need his consent to get an abortion. Back to their conversation:

“So do you know how far along you are? Alright, let’s talk about your boyfriend, how long have you been with him? Up until this point, how have you tried to avoid getting pregnant?”

Grimes: Deena’s client sounded mature and funny—she likes to read C.S. Lewis books, designs websites, and is currently working to get her GED. Ultimately, Jane said she wanted to be a pediatrician. Deena and Jane even laughed about how many pregnancy tests Jane had taken, a moment of real lightheartedness in an otherwise very serious, often tearful, thirty-minute phone call.

Grimes: “So, tell me, I mean I have a pretty good idea of why, but why don’t you tell me why you feel you want to have an abortion? Yeah, I hear ya. That’s definitely a serious consideration. So, have you read about things like adoption? I mean, I know that for you that doesn’t sound like a practical option but have you looked into that? Alright, in the research you’ve done did you come across, let’s say, if you were to keep the baby, what kind of resources there are from the state to help you, economically? Yeah, you’ve clearly done your homework. That’s good. Well, what does your boyfriend say?”

Grimes: Clients like Jane Doe are often going to school or getting their GED plus working part time jobs not for spending money, but to support children they already have, or their younger brothers and sisters, or to help their families keep the lights on at home. Jane wasn’t selfish, flippant or glib; she was trying to do what she thought was best for her future.

Kalai: “That was hard. She was crying.”

Grimes: Jane Doe sounded scared and serious. Nothing like the silly, petty teenagers Abby Johnson says seek abortions in Texas. Here’s Johnson, describing her own abortion experience to state representative Helen Giddings.

Johnson: “I mean, I’ve had two abortions as a young woman. And I wasn’t abused. I didn’t, I just didn’t want to tell my parents because I didn’t want them to be disappointed. And that’s typically what we see.”

Giddings: “Were you, since you became personal with this, and I never would have, were you not in distress?”

Johnson: “No. And most of the young girls that come in are not.”

Grimes: Deena’s client didn’t seem like that at all. She was scared not only about the pregnancy, and of what her father might do to her if he found out, but also worried about involving strangers in her private decision.

Kalai: “And remember that, you know, just as it’s weird for you to be going to talk to a judge about your sex life, it’s kind of weird for a judge to be having a random teenage girl come and talk to her about her sex life. So everyone thinks it’s kind of weird. But it’ll be just fine.”

Grimes: What’s frustrating for Deena is that so many of the girls she represents have had little to no sex education, not at school and not from their parents.

Kalai: “According to what my clients tell me, they’re receiving almost no sex ed. I will hear about some reference to having been separated from the girls and the boys in the fifth grade and being shown videos about something or given a pamphlet about something. But as far as in their recent years prior to this moment that they’re coming to me, they’re often not getting any sex ed in the school and definitely not at home. No one is sitting down and talking with them about responsible choices. The most that they’ll get, most of the time that I hear is, don’t have sex or there’ll be hell to pay.”

Grimes: Texas has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. But the Texas public education system fails girls like Jane Doe before they’re pregnant, before they’re ever having sex, by including medically inaccurate, abstinence-only sex ed curriculum in their schools, and that’s when there’s any sex ed at all, because it’s not required in Texas.

Kalai: “And I also know that Texas is a place where a lot of this information that girls need is not being given to them. And I feel like a lot of girls have a hard enough time getting through high school and getting through college that anything that can be done for them, to help keep advancing them along that path, if I can contribute to that, absolutely I’m going to do that.”

Grimes: Increasing the requirements for pregnant minors seeking abortions—teenage girls who are already scared, stressed and frustrated—adds unnecessary burdens to already struggling teens, just when they’re trying to take responsibility for their lives.

Audio Media Conference: Facts about the Kermit Gosnell Trial

It has recently been suggested that an alleged mainstream media “pro-choice bias” led to a failure to cover the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. But who has covered what, and when? Further, what issues are at stake in this trial? On April 16, 2013 Rewire hosted a fact-based call to help journalists and bloggers get a full picture. Listen to a recording of the call above.

We were joined by experts from the reproductive health community who shared their perspectives:

Jessica González-Rojas – Executive Director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Jessica González-Rojas is the Executive Director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the only national reproductive justice organization that specifically works to advance reproductive health and rights for Latinas. She has been a leader in progressive movements for over 15 years. Jessica is successfully forging connections between reproductive health, gender, immigration, LGBTQ liberation, labor and Latino civil rights, breaking down barriers between movements and building a strong Latina grassroots presence.

Jessica is a strong voice for Latinas and a regular presence in national and local media outlets. She was honored by El Diario/La Prensa, the nation’s oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, as one of 2009’s “Mujeres Destacadas” (Women of Honor). She is a regular contributor to El Diario/La Prensa and Huffington Post Latino Voices on pressing reproductive health issues in the Latina community, as well as a regular media voice in local and national outlets such as National Public Radio, the Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC-FM), the Boston Globe and The New York Times.

Jessica frequently speaks about the National Latina Institute’s work at national conferences, and provides policy expertise including testimony at congressional briefings. She worked with Lake Research Partners and the Reproductive Health Technologies Project in conducting groundbreaking opinion research, which has proven that old stereotypes about what’s important to Latino voters are wrong and that unraveled assumptions about the way Latino families view sexual health issues. Jessica provided content for the groundbreaking publication, “Reproductive Justice Briefing Book: A Primer on Reproductive Justice and Social Change”, contributed an NLIRH publication in the anthology, Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, 2nd Edition (Routledge Press, 2010) and served as an Advisory Member for the publication of Latina/o Sexualities: Probing Powers, Passions, Practices, and Policies (Rutgers University Press, 2010).

Jessica is a long-time leader in community and electoral politics. She was elected to the New York State Democratic Committee for the 39th Assembly District from 2002-2006, representing the diverse communities of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and Woodside. She has received proclamations from the New York State Senate, New York State Assembly and the New York City Council for local and national leadership. She also served as a community liaison in two district offices of Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez.

Jessica has held leadership roles in numerous local and national organizations that promotes social justice advocacy. For 11 years, she served on the Board of Directors of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), a New York City-based non-profit whose mission is to ensure that immigrants can build social, political and economic power. She is a featured expert for the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW), and an Advisory Member for several organizations and coalitions, including the Women of Color Policy Network (WOCPN), Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ), Raising Women’s Voices and the We Belong Together Campaign. She has also served as a board member for Medical Students for Choice and the Latina Political Action Committee (LPAC).

Jessica is an Adjunct Professor of Latino and Latin American Studies at the City University of New York’s City College and has taught courses on reproductive rights, gender and sexuality. Jessica holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, with a concentration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Public Policy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Boston University, where she graduated cum laude, and completed a certificate program from the Institute for Not-for-Profit Management at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.

Carole Joffe – Professor at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco

Carole Joffe, PhD, is a professor at the UCSF Bixby Center’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) Program and a professor of sociology emerita at the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on the social dimensions of reproductive health, with a particular interest in abortion provision. In January 2010, Dr. Joffe’s book, Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, was published by Beacon Press. Besides writing for an academic audience, she also writes frequently for the general public on the topics of reproductive health and reproductive politics. In 2010, Dr. Joffe received the Irwin Cusher Lectureship by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. In 2006, Dr. Joffe was awarded the Public Service Award by the Academic Senate of the University of California, Davis.

Deborah A. Reid – Staff attorney at the National Health Law Program and a board member of the Black Women’s Health Imperative

Deborah Reid joined the Washington, DC office of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) as a staff attorney in May 2005. NHeLP is a national public interest law firm that works on behalf of limited income populations to improve access to quality health care and protect the right to health. NHeLP provides legal and legislative analysis; policyadvocacy; class action litigation; and technical assistance to advocates, Congressional staff, and administrative agencies. Ms. Reid is currently a senior attorney, who is involved in legislative and policy advocacy for health-related legislative, legal and regulatory developments, particularly as they relate to Medicaid and health reform. Specifically, she works on other developing issues that impact the health of communities of color and low-income populations, including: racial and ethnic health disparities,
women’s health and reproductive rights and justice, human rights, and health information technology.

Ms. Reid is also currently a board member of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Prior to coming to NHeLP, she was an attorney advisor in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, she served as team leader on a number of civil rights project teams. In addition, Ms. Reid was responsible for advising the agency on administrative law matters; providing findings and recommendations on a variety of civil rights issues in such areas as environmental justice, health care, voting rights, and police practices; and contributing to drafting the agency’s civil rights reports. Prior to this time, she was a senior health care program planner analyst at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), as well as a coordinating manager and an administrative resident at a HHC facility, Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Ms. Reid has a juris doctor degree from Rutgers University School of Law-Newark; a master’s of professional studies degree in health services administration and a certificate in quantitative health studies from the New School for Social Research (Milano – The New School for Management and Policy) in New York City; and a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Rutgers College of Rutgers University.

Tara Murtha – Senior writer at Philadelphia Weekly

Tara Murtha is senior writer at Philadelphia Weekly, where she focuses on news, crime, policy and social justice issues with particular interest in sexual violence, gender/media issues and reproductive rights. Murtha is an Ochberg Fellow at Columbia University’s Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma and teaches journalism at Temple University. She is currently working on Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe for Bloomsbury Academic’s critically acclaimed 33 1/3 music book series, to be published in 2014. Follow her on twitter at @taramurtha.

Tracy Weitz – Associate Professor and Director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco

Tracy Weitz is an Associate Professor and Director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Weitz’s passion is for those aspects of women’s health that are marginalized either for ideological reasons or because the populations affected lack the means or mechanisms to have their concerns raised. Her current research focuses on innovative strategies to expand abortion provision in the U.S. Dr. Weitz also serves as the Associate Director for Public Policy at the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and was its founding executive director over a decade ago. She is a current board member of the Society of Family Planning, the ACLU of Northern California, and Breast Cancer Action. In 1999, she received the UCSF Chancellor’s Award for the Advancement of Women and in 2012 the UCSF Academic Senate Distinction in Mentoring Award. She has an MPA degree in public administration with an emphasis in health care and a PhD in medical sociology from the University of California, San Francisco.

Audio News Conference: Organizations Urge President Obama to Strike All Abortion Restrictions, Expand Access to Abortion Care

The President’s budget proposal provides critical reproductive health services for women.

In nearly all states across the country, federal and state politicians have created barriers that can make abortion services increasingly unaffordable or unavailable. And since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, Congress has withheld health care assistance for abortion services in federally-funded health insurance. These policies create obstacles to care and personal decision-making for federal employees and those who already face significant barriers to receiving quality care, such as low-income women, immigrant women and women of color. However we feel about abortion, politicians shouldn’t be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage just because she’s poor.

Organizations representing health care providers, youth, people of color, faith communities, reproductive health advocates and others are urging the President to strike all restrictions on abortion coverage for women and ensure that every woman has coverage for a full range of pregnancy related care, including abortion, whether she is enrolled in government-funded or private health insurance.

Restricting access to safe abortion care disproportionately affects poor and low-income women. The President must act to end this discrimination.

An audio news conference for journalists and bloggers on critical reproductive health services for women in the President’s budget proposal was hosted by Rewire on April 9th, 2013.

Speakers included:

  • Jessica Arons, Director, Women’s Health & Rights Program, Center for American Progress
  • Kimberly Inez McGuire, Associate Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • Megan J. Peterson, Deputy Director, National Network of Abortion Funds
  • Jeryl Hayes, Reproductive Justice Law & Policy Fellow placed at the Black Women’s Health Imperative

Jessica Arons is the Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, as well as a member of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative. Prior to joining American Progress, she worked at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, the labor and employment law firm of James & Hoffman, the Supreme Court of Virginia, the White House, and the 1996 Pennsylvania Democratic Coordinated Campaign. She currently serves on the boards of the DC Abortion Fund and the Virginia ACLU.

Jessica is an honors graduate of Brown University and William and Mary School of Law. At William and Mary, Jessica was an associate editor of the William and Mary Law Review, managing editor of the William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, and a board member of the William and Mary Public Service Fund. She has been seen on MSNBC, Fox News, and ABC News; heard on Clear Channel radio; and featured in The Nation, Politico, HuffingtonPost ScienceProgress, and RHRealityCheck. Her publications include “More Than a Choice: A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health and Rights” and “Future Choices: Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the Law.”

Kimberly Inez McGuire is Associate Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. At NLIRH Kimberly conducts legislative analysis and evaluates public policy on matters related to our three program areas, as well as responding to policymakers’ requests for information and assistance.

Kimberly joins the NLIRH with several years’ experience in policy analysis, legislative relations, and strategic communications. Previously, Kimberly worked as Senior Associate for Programs and Policy at the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, where she managed and supported several RHTP programs areas including abortion, contraceptive technologies, and health and wellness. During her time with RHTP, she worked in close partnership with NLIRH on groundbreaking research on Latino attitudes on abortion, contributed to the work of the Oral Contraceptives Over-the-Counter Working Group, and represented RHTP in advocacy for federal chemical policy reform. A frequent writer on reproductive and environmental health, Kimberly has presented on a broad range of reproductive health topics at conferences nationwide.

Megan J. Peterson is the Deputy Director for the National Network of Abortion Funds. Megan oversees multiple program areas at the Network including state and federal advocacy, member support, and individual donor relations. Before coming to the Network in 2006, she worked as the development and communications director for Pro-Choice Resources, home of the Hersey Abortion Assistance Fund. Megan has also worked as a patient educator for women receiving abortion care and as a legislative analyst on issues of economic justice and women’s rights. Megan serves on the editorial advisory board of the Grassroots Fundraising Journal and on the advisory board of Backline.

Jeryl Hayes is serving as the Reproductive Justice Law & Policy Fellow placed at the Black Women’s Health Imperative, through LSRJs Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program.  Her work includes a portfolio of issues including maternal and child mortality and morbidity, abortion, access to health care coverage, health equity, contraception and emergency contraception, reproductive rights, and HIV/STI prevention.  She earned her JD from Washington University in St. Louis in 2011, and recently completed her Masters of Law in Law & Government from American University Washington College of Law, with a concentration in Civil and Constitutional Rights and specialization in Gender and the Law. She enjoys traveling, cooking, singing and has recently been introduced to the world of competitive karaoke in DC.

Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo on Women’s Media Center Live

Rewire‘s Senior Political Reporter Robin Marty and Senior Legal Analyst Jessica Mason Pieklo, co-authors of the upcoming book Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard In Women’s Health And How We Can Change That were featured on this recent episode of Women’s Media Center Live.  Robin and Jessica joined Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall commenting on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and black feminism and Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards talking about 40 years of Roe v. Wade.

Audio News Conference: First Ever Study of Post-Roe v. Wade Anti-Choice Measures Reveals Broad Consequences for Pregnant Women

On January 15 at 11:00 ET Rewire hosted an audio news conference for journalists and bloggers on the first ever comprehensive, peer-reviewed study offering a groundbreaking, in-depth look at criminal and civil cases in which a woman’s pregnancy led to her arrest, imprisonment, or other deprivations of liberty.

Listen to a recording of the news conference here:

Related articles and content:

The study, “Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973– 2005: Implications for Women’s Legal Status and Public Health” was published Tuesday, January 15th in the peer-reviewed Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

The one-of-a-kind study identifies 413 criminal and civil cases involving the arrests, detentions and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women’s physical liberty that occurred between 1973 and 2005. (The authors cited evidence indicating the existence of a significant number of additional cases.)  In each of the 413 cases, pregnancy was a necessary element and the consequences included: arrests; incarceration; increases in prison or jail sentences; detentions in hospitals, mental institutions and drug treatment programs; and forced medical interventions, including surgery.

The study examines key characteristics of the cases and the women (including socioeconomic status and race) and reveals the role that health care providers played in facilitating actions against pregnant women. Analysis of the legal claims used to justify these arrests found that they relied on post-Roe measures such as feticide laws and the same arguments made in support of so called “personhood” measures namely, that state actors should be empowered to treat fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as completely legally separate from the pregnant woman.

While the study shows that low-income women and African American women are more likely to be deprived of their physical liberty, it also confirms that these state interventions are happening in every region of the country and affect women of all races.

As “personhood” measures continue to be promoted in state legislatures and in Congress, and as we observe the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this study broadens the conversation from one just about abortion to one about health policy and the legal status of pregnant women.

Speaker Details

Lynn M. Paltrow, JD is the founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. She is lead author of the study as well as the author of a recent commentary in the American Journal of Public Health: “Roe v. Wade and the New Jane Crow: Reproductive Rights in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”

Jeanne Flavin, PhD is professor of sociology at Fordham University and the study’s co-author. Her work examines gender, crime, and reproductive justice. She is the author of the award-winning book Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women’s Reproduction in America (2009), as well as more than two dozen other scholarly publications. She is the recipient of a 2009 Fulbright award and the 2013 Sociologists for Women in Society’s Feminist Activism Award. She is also president of NAPW’s board of directors.

Colleen Grogan, PhD is a professor at the University of Chicago and Editor of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy & Law. Her work examines the political evolution of the American health care system and the role of democratic participation in health policy decision-making. Her current book project is titled Health Policy by Stealth: America’s Hidden Health Care State, and she is co-author of Health Voices, Unhealthy Silence: Advocacy and Health Care for the Poor (2007).

Audio News Conference: Why HHS Should Make Emergency Contraception Available Over the Counter

One year after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration, restricting access to emergency contraception, citizens, medical professionals and advocates are urging reform. On Tuesday, December 4, 2012 Rewire hosted an audio news conference focused on the evidence base for making emergency contraception available over the counter, and on the experience of one couple seeking access to EC. The press conference comes as a widespread social media campaign and online petition campaign targets HHS to press for evidence-based changes in policy.

Listen to a recording of the conference:

For more, see:

What: An audio news conference for print, radio and web journalists and bloggers on emergency contraception restrictions.
When: Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 11:00 a.m. EST
Who:  Hosted by Jodi Jacobson, Editor, Rewire


  • Kirsten Moore, President and CEO of Reproductive Health Technologies Project
  • Hilary McKinney and Jonathan Sadhoo, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Technical Expertise:

  • Diana Blithe, Ph.D., National Institutes for Child Health & Human Development
  • Tracey Wilkinson, MD, MPH, pediatrician and lead author of “Pharmacy Communication to Adolescents and Their Physicians Regarding Access to Emergency Contraception” in the April 2012 issue of Pediatrics
How: Please RSVP here to receive dial-in information for the audio news conference.

Contact Brady Swenson, [email protected], with any technical questions or concerns.

Kirsten Moore, President and CEO of Reproductive Health Technologies Project

Reproductive Health Technologies Project is a national nonprofit advocacy organization that seeks to improve the political and commercial climate in the U.S. so more and better contraceptive and reproductive health products are available to women. In recent years, the Project has played a principal role in defining the advocacy agenda for expanding awareness of and access to EC in the U.S., including chairing a coalition of more than seventy organizations in support of the application to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter. Under Kirsten’s leadership, RHTP was a cofounder with the Union of Concerned Scientists of the Integrity of Science Working Group which crafted a highly successful earned media strategy that helped to make abuses of science in policymaking circles a favorite topic of editorial boards and cartoons.  More recently, RHTP has begun a multi-faceted research project looking at the question of whether technologies which humanize the fetus change the way people think about abortion.

Prior to joining RHTP full time, Kirsten was a Program Manager at BASS and HOWES, a public affairs consulting firm, where she helped numerous reproductive health and rights organizations develop and implement advocacy initiatives designed to strengthen women’s reproductive autonomy.  Previously, Kirsten managed the Population Council’s Gender, Family and Development Program. She received her Masters in Public Affairs from Princeton University in 1998.

Diana L. Blithe, Ph.D. NICHD

Diana Blithe, Ph.D., joined the Contraceptive Development Branch in 1996 from the NICHD?s Division of Intramural Research. She has expertise in biochemistry, endocrinology, and glycobiology. Dr. Blithe is the Program Director for the Contraceptive Development Research Centers Program and the Male Contraceptive Development Program. She also serves as the Co-Director of the Contraceptive Clinical Trials Network, overseeing clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of new contraceptive agents for men and women. Dr. Blithe is the PI on a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement with HRA Parma to develop CDB-2914 as a Progesterone Receptor Modulator for contraceptive and therapeutic applications. Her additional responsibilities in the Branch include reviewing technology transfer arrangements with commercial partners. Dr. Blithe currently serves on the editorial board of Endocrine, and as an ad hoc reviewer for Endocrinology, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and other journals.

Tracey Wilkinson, MD, MPH

Tracey Wilkinson, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician in Los Angeles whose research focuses on teens and emergency contraception. Dr. Wilkinson is the lead author of the two primary studies on adolescents’ access to EC: “Access to Emergency Contraception for Adolescents” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2012) and “Pharmacy Communication to Adolescents and Their Physicians Regarding Access to Emergency Contraception” in the journal Pediatrics (2012). She is a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and a peer reviewer for Archives of Disease in Childhood and the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Dr. Wilkinson completed her fellowship in general academic pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. She earned her master’s of public health at Boston University and her medical degree at Vanderbilt University.

The Sound of Silence: Catholic Hierarchy’s Lack of Response to Abuse of Women by “Project Prevention”

Recently, an all-Catholic coalition of 43 dioceses, hospitals, church agencies, schools and other religious-owned or operated but public entities filed a dozen separate lawsuits against the Obama administration, protesting the requirement that insurance plans covering secular employees include contraceptive services. These lawsuits follow on the heels of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ high-profile attacks on nuns and Girl Scouts.

What I find as interesting as who Catholic leaders have chosen to attack is when they choose to be silent.

I “get” that many Catholics have a moral objection to contraceptive use (though presumably this group does not include the 98 percent of sexually-active Catholic women who report ever using a contraceptive method other than natural family planning). I also concede that the selectivity of the “right to life” position is nothing new; the Church has yet to file lawsuits against Texas Governor Rick Perry and the state of Texas for their staggering stream of executions.

Still, it seems reasonable that the same Catholic officials who are incensed by the prospect of insurance coverage for contraception would take strong issue with Project Prevention, a program that pays a targeted group of women to be sterilized or use long-acting forms of contraception. A search of the Internet, however, indicates that Catholic leadership has said absolutely nothing on the matter.

Project Prevention is a national organization based in North Carolina that claims chapters in 27 states. It has a presence in the United Kingdom and Kenya and has floated plans to expand to Haiti, South Africa and Australia. Project Prevention pays $300 for women who “abuse” drugs or alcohol to undergo long-term birth control or sterilization. Project Prevention targets only the reproductive capacity of some low-income women; the organization does nothing to address women’s need for comprehensive reproductive health care, effective drug treatment programs, mental health services, and social, economic and educational support. Moreover, Project Prevention encourages dangerous stereotypes about the women and their children. (This video challenges such characterizations.)

Project Prevention has garnered considerable publicity since its founding in 1997, having been featured on national television shows and in most major newspapers. Its Facebook page features status updates such as:

“Excited to write several checks to addicts this morning, but most excited that 6 [women] were under age 20” and “No better way to start my morning than writing 14 checks to addicts/alcoholics who obtained long term birth control.”

Earlier this year, Project Prevention proudly celebrated a milestone, having paid 4,000 women to undergo long-term birth control and sterilization.

Despite Project Prevention’s visibility, I could not find evidence that a single spokesperson of a major Catholic organization has ever weighed in on their activities.

Project Prevention was originally called Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity or “C.R.A.C.K.” The old name reflects the organization’s focus on crack cocaine rather than substances like alcohol, tobacco or prescription medicines that also pose a threat to fetal health but are more commonly used by white and middle-class women. Because another classy thing about Project Prevention is that more than half of its clients are racial or ethnic minorities. Mind you, founder Barbara Harris insists that Project Prevention doesn’t target any particular race. As she explains:

“We target drug addicts, and that’s it. Skin color doesn’t matter, and we believe all babies matter, even black babies,” and “If you’re a drug addict, we’re looking for you, and I don’t care what color you are, because we don’t even know what color your baby will be, because often these babies come out all different colors. They’re mixed.”

The heads of major Catholic organizations apparently have not seen fit to issue an official statement of any kind in the face of Project Prevention’s thinly veiled racial prejudice or its promotion of contraceptive use.

Disturbing? You haven’t heard the half of it. Project Prevention’s recruitment strategies rely on referrals from probation offices, jails, drug treatment programs, methadone clinics and law enforcement agencies. There have been reports of workers (and others) being paid a $50 referral fee.

“Project Prevention is growing and even making inroads into state institutions,” Harris has boasted. “We’ve had many organizations, county and state agencies come on board and start referring women to us. We have jails that allow our volunteers in to tell inmates about our program. We have drug treatment programs that are referring women to us. We have methadone clinics that have our information posted on the walls, and probation departments-just many, many agencies, in a lot of states, that are learning about us and making referrals to us.”

To recap: You have an organization that for 15 years has sustained a highly-publicized campaign of paying low-income women of color who struggle with drug problems to be sterilized or subjected to long-acting birth control, and which relies on government agents for referrals and government-funded agencies to provide the contraception and sterilization services.

In light of this, we might expect Catholic leadership to be at least as vocal in their opposition to Project Prevention as they are toward the coverage of women’s voluntary contraceptive use (or, say, the Girl Scouts).

Instead, we hear… crickets.


Perhaps others, like me, find it increasingly difficult to listen to what some Catholic leaders have to say on the subject of morality when their silence on Project Prevention and many other matters of significant moral import has been nothing short of deafening.

Media Conference Call Recording: Implications of the Bei Bei Shuai Case for Women and Roe

Listen to a recording of the media conference call on the implications of the Bei Bei Shuai case:



Audio press conference on implications for pregnant women, and Roe v. Wade, of Indiana Supreme Court decision denying motion for transfer in the case of Bei Bei Shuai.

When: Thursday, May 17th, 2012
11:00 am ET
Who:  Co-sponsored by Rewire and National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Moderator: Jodi L. Jacobson, Editor in Chief, Rewire

Lynn M. Paltrow, JD, Founder and Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Emma Ketteringham, JD, Director of Legal Advocacy for National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Christine Taylor, mother of four and a Direct Care worker for people with mental illness and those who are intellectually disabled. In 2010, Ms. Taylor was arrested for attempted fetal homicide after falling down a flight of stairs while pregnant, on the same legal theory used in the Bei Bei Shuai case.

More about the Speakers

Lynn M. Paltrow, JD, Executive Director, founded National Advocates for Pregnant Women in 2001. Ms. Paltrow is a graduate of Cornell University and New York University School of Law. She has worked on numerous cases challenging restrictions on the right to choose abortion as well cases opposing the prosecution and punishment of pregnant women seeking to continue their pregnancies to term. Ms. Paltrow has served as a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, as Director of Special Litigation at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, and as Vice President for Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City. Ms. Paltrow conceived of and filed the first affirmative federal civil rights challenge to a hospital policy of searching pregnant women for evidence of drug use and turning that information over to the police. In the case of Ferguson et. al., v. City of Charleston et. al., the United States Supreme Court agreed that such a policy violates the 4th amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Emma Ketteringham, JD, is Director of Legal Advocacy for National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Prior to working for NAPW Ms. Ketteringham worked at The Bronx Defenders, where she was a criminal defense attorney and then  Deputy Managing Attorney of the family law practice. At The Bronx Defenders, Ms. Ketteringham trained and supervised attorneys who represented parents in abuse, neglect and termination of parental rights proceedings. She also participated in numerous court-based and independent coalitions to develop pro-family policies and practices in New York City Family Court. Previously, Ms. Ketteringham was a litigation associate at Lansner and Kubitschek where she represented parents and children in state and federal court and at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, where she worked on complex civil litigation. Ms. Ketteringham clerked for two federal judges, first in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, then at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She has also worked as a Legal Assistant at the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and as a law clerk at the American Civil Liberties Union for Southern California. She is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Trinity College.

Christine Taylor is a mother of four. She lives with her children in Iowa. She is a Direct Care worker for people with mental illness and those who are intellectually disabled. She is also a student at Southeastern Iowa Community College, studying for her associates degree.  In 2010, Ms. Taylor was arrested for attempted fetal homicide after falling down a flight of stairs while pregnant. Hospital staff called the police alleging that she had intentionally fallen down the stairs. She was arrested and charged with attempted fetal homicide on the same legal theory used in the Bei Bei Shuai case. Ms. Taylor  was prevented from going home to her children and was instead incarcerated for two days before police released her. The charge, was eventually dropped, but not because state authorities recognized that the fetal homicide law was intended to punish third parties who attack pregnant women, not pregnant women themselves. Authorities stated that they were dropping the charges because  Ms. Taylor was in her second trimester of pregnancy rather than her third trimester when she experienced the fall. Ms. Taylor now has this arrest on her record. She continues to speak out against the injustice of the arrest and the violations of her medical and personal privacy she experienced when she sought medical help while pregnant.


In 2010, Bei Bei Shuai, a pregnant woman living in Indiana became so depressed that she attempted to end her own life. With help from friends who intervened, however, she survived. Although Ms. Shuai did everything she could, including undergoing cesarean surgery, to ensure that her baby survived, her newborn died shortly after birth.

Ms. Shuai was arrested for the crime of murder (defined to include viable fetuses) and feticide (defined to include ending a human pregnancy at any stage). The sentence for murder can be the death penalty or 45 years-to-life. The sentence for attempted feticide is up to 20 years. Both of these kinds of laws are promoted and supported by “pro-life” organizations. Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has said that the “pro-life movement is not out to punish women.” Yet, as of today, Ms. Shuai, has been in prison for 14 months, and punished for an entire year. (Bail is not allowed when the charge is murder).

Last week, the Indiana Supreme Court denied Bei Bei Shuai’s motion for transfer. In so doing, they upheld the ruling of the mid-level appellate court, which said that feticide and fetal murder laws — intended to punish people who hurt pregnant women and cause them to miscarry — can be used against a pregnant woman herself.

Legal experts conclude that this case creates a dangerous precedent in Indiana with consequences reaching far beyond suicide attempts. If it goes forward, women who risk their lives and health by becoming pregnant, may then be arrested as criminals if they engage in any intentional act that law enforcement believes will threaten the life or health of the fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses they carry.