Pregnancy, Childbirth and Parenting
By focusing on the rights of all pregnant women, including those who are continuing their pregnancies to term, those who are young, low income, of color, and those who use drugs, NAPW broadens and strengthens the reproductive and women’s rights and other progressive movements in America today. By shifting the reproductive rights paradigm – from one focused on abortion to one that focuses on the shared values at the heart of a range of interrelated reproductive, social and family justice issues – we can speak to and engage millions of potential new advocates and activists.
NAPW sees the common threads and threats connecting women who have abortions and those seeking to continue their pregnancies to term. They are the same women: most women who have abortions are or will become mothers. Both groups want to be sure that when they do have children, the delivery is respectful and their work as mothers is valued. Both are threatened by laws and policies regulating healthcare providers, whether they target abortion providers, punish midwives for not having the right kind of license, or prevent women from trying vaginal birth after a C-section. Whether pro- or anti- choice, women face a rapid increase in legal claims of fetal rights, which in practice not only limit abortions, but are used to force pregnant women to have unnecessary C-sections and to allow the arrests and imprisonment of women based on things they did or did not do during pregnancy. Likewise, while abortion issues are used to divide the U.S. electorate, women are united by health, economic and environmental policies that are undermining the ability of mothers and fathers to provide, protect and care for their families.
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 deregulating coal burning power plants. Such plants release mercury into the environment creating health hazards that are most dangerous to pregnant women, fetuses, and children. While President Bush was reinterpreting the Child Health Insurance Program to allow states to cover "unborn" children, 43 million Americans, including eight and a half million actual children were without health care coverage.
This section provides information, links, articles, guides, and other resources that address issues faced by women carrying to term and everyone involved in the work of parenting and homemaking.
Dray v. Staten Island University Hospital et al.: Rinat Dray, was forced to have cesarean surgery over her express objections. With NAPW’s help, Ms. Dray obtained significant media coverage of her situation and filed a lawsuit against the hospital and two physicians. In its defense, the hospital argues that since a woman in New York can be prohibited from having an abortion after a certain point in her pregnancy, she may also be denied every other right including the right to bodily integrity and the right to refuse surgery. According to the hospital, this means that doctors may substitute their decisions for that of pregnant patients. Unfortunately, a NY trial court issued a ruling that adopts this view. This ruling is particularly disappointing and dangerous because it suggests for the first time that pregnant patients may be forced to undergo surgery without even a pretense of due process – without a court order and based solely on a hospital employee’s opinion about what might be better for a fetus. In October of 2016, NAPW filed an amicus brief in support of Ms. Dray's appeal on behalf of more than 40 experts and organizations.Read the full brief here.
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.
John and Amber Marlowe are pro-life parents who participated in the March for Women's Lives in 2004 because of their experience with a forced cesarean surgery. The Marlowe's realized that their rights were negated during pregnancy because the fetus was given rights.
You can read their story in their own words.
The documents from their court case are also available: Download file
This list of PREGNANCY AND BIRTH POLICY INITIATIVES has been put together by the Big Push for Midwives Campaign and represents ideas by state and national consumer organizations for federal policy initiatives.
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.
Lynn M. Paltrow
March 12, 2007
Lynn M. Paltrow is the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
Many people in the U.S. work to protect the rights of pregnant women and to ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect. But as a result of the divisive abortion debate, many of those advocates typically do not work together—or even speak to one another.
The anti-abortion movement has successfully used the abortion issue to divide the electorate, and a key part of their strategy has been creating the illusion that there are two kinds of women: those who have abortions and those who have babies. The truth is that 61 percent of women who have abortions are already mothers, and another 24 percent will go on to become mothers. Over the course of their lives, 85 percent of all women bring life into this world and provide the vast majority of care for the lives of those around them—without compensation.
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 right to choose includes the right to give birth with dignity and respect. On Labor Day weekend BOLD is sponsoring three exciting events to ensure that maternity care is mother-friendly. For more information about these events please go to NYC BOLD Events
In an excellent commentary in April 2006, Gene Declercq and Judy Norsigian challenge the myth that mothers are fueling the trend toward elective Caesareans. Read Mothers aren't behind a vogue for caesareans at:
The World Health Organization considers acceptable levels for cesarean rates as not less than 5% and not more than 15% of all deliveries. Yet approximately 28% of all US births are by cesarean delivery, accounting for approximately one million cesareans. Some providers and hospitals have even higher rates. And, while the majority of appellate courts have held that the state may not force women to undergo unwanted cesareans many women continue to find that they are pressured or coerced into such proceedures or find that no health care provider will support their decion to have a vaginal birth after a c-section ("VBAC"). The organizations and articles below provide information and resources on these issues.
The International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc. (ICAN) is a nonprofit organization founded by Esther Booth Zorn in 1982. ICAN's mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).
Thanks to Susan Hodges and Citizens for Midwifery, there is now a guide for how to do something if you are unhappy with your maternity care. This excellent guide provides answers to such questions as: What do we do when obstetricians or other hospital staff have treated you rudely, abusively or violently?
In a USA Today story, reporter Rita Rubin explores how "a growing number of hosptials, women are being forced to schedule a repeat cesarean section just because they already had one." The story describes an overall C-section rate in the US that continues to climb and local activism opposing restrictions on women seeking to have vaginal births: "'My uterus, my choice,' read one placard at a rally in late July at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash." To read the full story go to:
By Freeda Lynne Cathcart
Roanoke Times & World News (Roanoke, VA)
June 6, 2004 Sunday Metro Edition
One in a million, part of a small contingent in a sea of masses, I was witness to the historic March for Women's Lives on April 25 in Washington D.C.
My husband, four sons and I marched with the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. We were a testament that the March for Women's Lives was about a much broader issue than abortion rights.
It was about women's ability to access good quality health care. It was about whether women can be trusted to make their own health care decisions.
We marched in memory of Angela Carder, a 27-year-old pregnant woman who in the name of fetal rights was forced to have a Caesarean section that resulted in her death and the death of her fetus. We marched in celebration of childbirth and the rights of women and families to decide if or when a Caesarean is necessary. We marched in honor of mothers who bear and raise children without compensation or any kind of meaningful state support to ensure the health and welfare of their families.
By: Lynn M. Paltrow, AlterNet.org, April 22, 2004
Imagine a law declaring that upon becoming pregnant a woman loses her right to bodily integrity, life and liberty. Such a law would undoubtedly result in strong opposition across party lines. But in fact such laws are being passed -- though rather than presented as an attack on women's fundamental rights, they are advanced as fetal rights measures such as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act recently signed into law by President Bush. Increasingly, fetal rights are being used to undermine the legal status of pregnant women.