AMARILLO, TX -- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded a unanimous decision by a state court of appeals in Texas reversing the convictions of two pregnant women accused of delivering a controlled substance to their fetuses.
"Pregnant women with drug problems need treatment -- not jail," said Jennifer McAllister-Nevins, State Strategies Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "When pregnant women are threatened with jail time for drug use they are less likely to seek prenatal care and treatment for substance abuse."
In 2003, the state of Texas convicted two pregnant women for drug use in pregnancy. The decision by the Texas Court of Appeals overturned those convictions.
"Women do not give up their right to privacy merely because they are pregnant," said William Harrell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. "What's to stop an overzealous prosecutor from monitoring a pregnant woman's every move and arresting women for failing to take prenatal vitamins or having a glass of wine?"
Leading public health groups -- including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Nurses Association -- oppose punishing pregnant women for their behavior because it can deter women from seeking the prenatal care they need to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
The attorneys on the case are Edward Jason Dennis of Lynn Tillotson & Pinker LLP, and Gregory A. Horowitz, Patricia A. Seith, Ilyssa B. Sena, and Joshua Kelner of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.
The ACLU and the ACLU of Texas filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Ward v. The State of Texas, No. 07-04-0457-CR.
The ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief is available here in PDF format.