Personhood Laws

This comprehensive report on the legal threats to women and pregnant people from “personhood” laws, which are already on the books and resulting in real charges against individuals, is from the much respected National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). The report is linked and is a 43 page legal resource and analysis.

While the media is focused on the criminal implications of abortion bans, we know that the majority of criminalization will not stem from these laws. Our attention remains on the many ways in which fetal personhood laws — which already exist in 11 states and broadly redefine who a “person” is under a state’s criminal and civil code to include fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses — create even more civil and criminal vulnerability for pregnant people. This week, NAPW published the first comprehensive analysis of personhood laws for a post-Roe America, showing how many ways they can upend, undermine, and disempower pregnant people.

Fetal homicide laws, which exist in 38 states, have long been used to terrorize pregnant people after they experience a pregnancy loss or self-manage an abortion. From Purvi Patelto Adora Perez, these laws are often passed under the pretext that they protect pregnant people from violence, but they have been used to prosecute pregnant people. Because we know this playbook far too well, we are preparing. Read our just-released analysis of the 38 fetal homicide laws and the ways they could be deployed to not only criminalize pregnant people but also providers of abortion care.

The devastating impact of the war on drugs continues to be felt in so many of our cases, and this op-ed draws on that history to share a warning for post-Roe America about the damage that can result when medicine and criminal law intersect. As we continue to see pregnancy-related criminal cases rooted in junk science and stigma, we have updated this essential resource on pregnancy and drug use, debunking longstanding and entrenched misinformation and providing the latest and best scientific peer-reviewed research.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women
575 8th Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, New York 10018 | 212-255-9252

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