Maternal-State Conflicts:
Claims of Fetal Rights & the Wellbeing of Women & Families
Sponsored by The National Advocates for Pregnant Women and
The Mt. Sinai-Based Clinical Education Initiative

January 25-27, 2002, Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York City
Preliminary Agenda

Friday, January 25: Day 1 (pre-conference)

1:00-10:00 p.m. Coalition & Community-Building Workshop, Facilitated by Be Present, Inc.

Through this conference, NAPW hopes to foster a broader understanding of maternal-state conflicts and develop a wider coalition of people willing to work together to oppose them. Participants in the conference come from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and areas of interest. We will be coming together to address issues that are sometimes very personal and always politically charged. Our differences and the nature of our subject, which touches on pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, drug use, and HIV, to name a few, often divides us and as a result, limits our effectiveness. This training provides an opportunity to look specifically at how we get divided and to gain new insights and skills to work together more effectively for social justice.  

Saturday, January 26: Day 2

9:00-9:30 Registration and Breakfast

9:30- 11:00 Opening Plenary: Reframing the Debate: Maternal-Sate Conflicts ­ Controlling Women & Families in the Name of Fetal Rights.

This session will feature an overview of the history, most recent emergence, and consequences of the maternal-state conflicts. Panel members will discuss so-called ³fetal rights² policies and practices that are in effect today, as well the role of race, class, and gender in who is affected by such policies. The plenary will also address the relevance of the maternal-state conflict to a variety of different movements, examining how a wide range of progressive causes have a stake in this debate/issue.

11:00-11:30 Break

11:30-1:00 Breakout Session (Period One)

Room One: Fetal Images and Ideologies

Anti-abortion groups have long used the image of the fetus as an organizing tool. This image has also influenced popular and political culture, affecting everything from what laws are proposed, to how health care is provided. This session will explore images of the fetus, mother, pregnant woman, and drug-using pregnant women in popular culture, focusing on the effect of these images on such things as the recent stem cell debate and on our understanding of maternal-state conflicts.

Room Two: Are Claims of Fetal Rights New?

Over the course of history, claims of fetal rights have arisen in various contexts. Panelists in this session will explore the history of fetal rights claims, placing current claims in historical context, and specifically addressing their recent rise to prominence in medical and legal contexts.

Room Three: Creating Crises: Crack Moms, Drunk Babies, and Welfare Queens

Consciously or unconsciously, many people accept the framework of ³maternal-fetal conflicts.² Images of neglectful mothers and vulnerable newborns, combined with flashy catch phrases like ³crack moms,² ³crack babies² ³FAS babies,² and ³welfare queens,² have been used effectively to create a sense of crisis and a politic that blames individual mothers for larger social problems. This panel will discuss the history, the research and myths underlying these labels, the policies that have resulted, and the consequences to women and children.

1:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-2:30 Breakout Sessions (Period Two)

Room One: The History of Maternal-Fetal Medicine or How the Mother Magically Disappears

This session will examine the advent of ³maternal-fetal² medicine and the medical communityıs role in the creation of so call ³maternal-fetal² conflicts. Panelists will also discuss the role of new technologies, such as 3-D sonogram imaging, and address the beliefs, attitudes, and policies that underlie current approaches to the medical treatment of pregnant women. Panelist will offer alternative frameworks for addressing and defining this conflict.

Room Two: How Medicine & Medical Care are Co-opted by Fetal Rights

Fetal rights claims are often used to justify intrusions into health care that do not benefit women or children. In fact, these measures often serve to drive women away from health care and to compromise the relationship between provider and patient. In this session, health care providers, advocates, and recipients will talk about the ways in which claims of fetal rights have affected their ability to provide or receive appropriate health care.

Room Three: Providing Care for Pregnant Women: Addressing Hard Cases & Finding What Works

Some argue that fetuses are best protected by threatening pregnant women with punishment for behavior deemed ³dangerous.² However, many health care providers and outreach workers who have direct contact with pregnant women have found alternative approaches more effective. This panel will discuss programs and services, including harm reduction and outreach models, that are effective, respectful, and humane.

3:30-4:00 Break

4:00-5:30 Breakout Sessions (Period Three)

Room One: Women as Bystanders to Their Own Bodies

In many ways, fetal rights claims have served to position women as bystanders to their own bodies under the law, by denying them fundamental rights to bodily integrity and self-determination. Panelists in this session will examine this trend, exploring how fetal rights claims shape everything from tort law, to the workplace, to health-law, to end of life decision-making policies.

Room Two: Prosecuting and Punishing Pregnant Women: Protecting Fetuses or Controlling Women?

In the last decade, approximately 200 pregnant women and new mothers have been arrested on claims of fetal abuse. While some women are being sent to jail because they failed to ³protect² the fetus, other women in INS and other forms of detention find that they cannot get prenatal care and are subjected to searches and conditions that endanger them and their pregnancies. Pregnant women with HIV might be punished for making informed treatment refusals, or women might find that their welfare or health benefits are cut if they continue a pregnancy to term. In particular, panelists in this session will discuss the range of punitive and contradictory responses to pregnant women and the ways in which these reveal agendas unrelated to so-called ³fetal rights.²

Room Three: Legislation and Strategy: How Do Legislators and Lobbyists Deal With Claims of Fetal Rights?

This panel will examine legislation and policy on the federal and state levels. Panelists will discuss pending federal legislation including the so-called Unborn Victims of Violence Act, as well as ³fetal-rights² policies at the state level. Legislators and lobbyists will discuss how they have responded to these proposals, examine both successful and unsuccessful legislative battles on the issue, and discuss how future battles might be reframed to address the real issue of maternal-state conflict.

Sunday, January 27: Day 3

9:00-9:30 Registration and Breakfast

9:30-11:00 Breakout Sessions (Period One)

Room One: Reproductive Health Care and Claims of Fetal Rights

While it is widely understood within the reproductive rights movement that fetal rights measures are part of a long term strategy to undermine the right to have an abortion, less attention is paid to how these claims affect access to a wider range of reproductive health care, including alternative birthing providers/settings. This roundtable discussion will explore the relationship between fetal rights claims and reproductive health care access, focusing on finding the common ground between such groups as midwives and abortion rights activists in the search for responses to claims of fetal rights.

Room Two: In the Name of the Children

Policies based on claims of fetal rights are often justified by the argument that they are protecting children. Can reproductive rights and childrenıs rights advocates find common ground in their efforts to protect women, children and families? This roundtable discussion will feature panelists sharing their personal experiences, examining policy implications, and exploring opportunities for collaboration.

Room Three: Maternal-State Conflicts and Progressive Political Movements

How are fetal rights claims connected to other political movements?  How does the image of the drug-using pregnant women relate to so called "welfare reform" and other efforts to limit income support programs?  Are these claims used to undermine coalitions for health care, disability rights, protection of the environment, and drug policy and prison reform efforts? This roundtable discussion will examine these issues and explore how our respective movements might be strengthened by a shared understanding of maternal-state conflicts.

11:00-11:30 Break

11:30-1:00 Breakout Sessions (Period Two)

Room One: Organizing and Coalition Building

This workshop will address how to organize and build coalitions to respond to so called fetal rights measures, how to talk to the opposition, community organizing, and what types of actions organizations and their members can take to oppose attacks on pregnant women and a range of progressive issues in the name of fetal rights.

Room Two: Media and Communication

This session will feature communication strategies for people and organizations who are opposing fetal rights measures. In addition to examining current images in the media, panelists will address concerns about perceived damage that might occur from being in alliance with controversial issues/groups, how to talk to the media about fetal rights issues, counter-imaging strategies, and redefining issues as maternal-state conflicts.

Room Three: Strategies for Legislation and Litigation

This workshop will explore approaches for activists and advocates seeking to overturn or combat fetal rights legislation and litigation.

1:00 ­ 2:30 Closing Lunch

Lynn M. Paltrow

Executive Director
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
45 West 10th Street #3F
New York, New York 10011
212-254-9679 (fax)