Reproductive Justice

Appeals Court Hears Case of Purvi Patel

On Monday, the Indiana Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the feticide and child neglect conviction of Purvi Patel. Patel, the first woman in the U.S. to be convicted for terminating her pregnancy, has served 14 months of a 20 year prison sentence. Since her arrest, reproductive justice advocates have argued vehemently that Patel and other women should not be prosecuted for their pregnancy outcomes.

Patel was arrested in 2013 after seeking emergency medical treatment following the loss of her pregnancy. Instead of treating her with respect and quality care, the attending doctor called the police, who interrogated and then arrested her while she was still in her hospital bed. She was later convicted of both neglect of a dependent and feticide (charges which Patel’s lawyers have argued are contradictory).

At Monday’s hearing, Patel’s lawyers argued that that the feticide law in Indiana was intended to protect pregnant women against attacks by third parties, not to prosecute women for having abortions, miscarriages, or stillbirths. The upholding of this conviction would set a dangerous legal precedent for feticide laws being used to punish pregnant women, not only for self-induced abortions but also for drinking, smoking, or any other conduct prosecutors could link to pregnancy outcomes. In addition to denying women their civil and human rights, this precedent may discourage any pregnant person from seeking important medical care during pregnancy or miscarriage. While the judges weighed these implications of the precedent in court on Monday, their standing on the case is still unclear.

The conviction, along with the 2011 Indiana case against Bei Bei Shuai and increasing laws policing reproductive rights, are evidence of the disproportionate criminalization and stereotyping of pregnant Asian American and Pacific Islander women and pregnant people of color in general. Miriam Yeung, executive director of Overbrook grantee National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, stated, “Asian American and Pacific Islander women are particularly vulnerable for being targeted because of myths and racist stereotypes about our reproductive decision-making.” The denial of Patel’s appeal would only compound the already staggering legal burden and lack of access to reproductive justice for communities of color.

Overbrook grantees National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and National Advocates for Pregnant Women have been closely involved in advocating for Patel and mobilizing the public to support her appeal. Patel remains incarcerated while the Indiana Court of Appeals considers her case.

Apply for Advocates for Youth's Youth Fundraising Advisory Board!

The following post comes from our friends at Advocates for Youth (AFY) and, in particular, directly from an email from Julie Reticker-Flynn.  It invites any and all young activists to apply for AFY's Youth Fundraising Advisory Board.  Through this experience and the resources provided by AFY, young people will learn valuable fundraising skills to help them raise money for the causes and organizations they care about. As a Foundation, we definitely understand how important successful fundraising abilities are for non-profit leaders. This is a great opportunity to network and gain these skills early on in your career:

Are you interested in or already pursuing a career in the non-profit sector? Do you volunteer with non-profit organizations and want to take on a leadership role? Want to learn fundraising skills but not sure where to start?

Advocates for Youth is accepting applications until June 30, 2013 for its Youth Fundraising Advisory Board (Y-FAB)!

Elizabeth, a 24 year old Y-FAB alum, says: The cool thing about the program is that it carves out this space for Millennials to practice philanthropy. Theoretically, anyone could raise funds for an organization, but without leadership, support, and resources, it takes a lot to do it on your own. Advocates providing all of that is what makes Y-FAB so great. It has the potential to evolve into a powerful fundraising and organizing tool...

20 applicants will be selected to join Y-FAB – a select group of young people interested in learning the essentials of fundraising.  Knowledge and skills in fundraising are vital for leaders of the non-profit sector.  Y-FAB gives you the opportunity to work as part of a team in a virtual learning environment towards a joint fundraising goal to test and improve your fundraising skills.

Don’t have any fundraising experience? No problem, no experience required! Members are selected to serve a one-year term from August 2013 to May 2013. Through Y-FAB you will receive fundraising skills training, ongoing coaching, resources to help with fundraising efforts, and networking opportunities with other youth leaders and nonprofit professionals.

Applications are due June 30th, 2013. Apply now!

New 2011 Catalyst Fund Evaluation Released

The Overbrook Foundation’s grantee, the Catalyst Fund, has released its annual evaluation (conducted by Korwin Consulting) of the fund’s activities and those of its partners and grantees in 2011. This report provides an analysis of the work of the Catalyst Fund to expand the amount of available funds going to support grassroots Women of Color-led reproductive justice organizations. In doing so, the report also provides a sense of the challenges and opportunities facing the reproductive justice field as a whole across the country. It explains the diminishing funds going to support this work even though the impact of the groups has been higher in 2011. The report lays out the model for the fund. 26 national foundations support Catalyst which then gives grants to 12 women’s foundations around the country. In turn, these women’s foundations must raise the money to match the grant from Catalyst and then use both of these amounts to grant to 96 grassroots reproductive justice groups. In spite of the economic downturn, the Catalyst Fund has encouraged donors, including many individual donors, to move $8.6 million in new money to support the reproductive justice field since 2008.
Beyond the explanation of this exciting funding mechanism this gives a great overview of the reproductive justice movement and the field. It introduces the issues being addressed by these groups (ranging from abortion access to parenting rights to environmental justice) and the communities being served. It also reports the number of organizations that are engaging in different strategies like alliance building, policy advocacy, community organizing and more.  As the report states, “Collectively, Catalyst grantees in 2011 were instrumental in the passage of 10 laws and 10 non-legislative policies while blocking passage of 28 harmful new laws and protecting two existing policies from repeal.” The evaluation also addresses the challenges to the fund’s work and in the field as a whole. It highlights the fund raising, communications and capacity difficulties for the groups as well as the current political environment which can be both helpful and harmful to their efforts.
In addition to the quantitative data on policy victories, opinion leaders influenced and alliances built, qualitative interviews and stories of the grassroots groups’ work reveal why foundations and other partners, including Overbrook, have been so excited to be a part of this project. The evaluation reveals that this work is not easy, but these groups are continuing to demonstrate impact. From our perspective, supporting local grassroots groups working on the issues most important to their communities and led by those who are most impacted by reproductive health inequities is essential to expanding access to reproductive justice here in the United States.
Please click here to read the report’s summary and here to read the full evaluation found on the Groundswell Fund’s (which houses the Catalyst Fund among two other reproductive justice funds) website.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women in the New York Times Magazine

This past weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran an article, “Mommy Had To Go Away For A While", and its website published it under the title, “The Criminalization of Bad Mothers”.  In the article, Ada Calhoun tells the story of several women who have been arrested under Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law, a law which requires the prosecution of mothers abusing substances that might harm their children or fetuses. She traces the cases and family backgrounds of several women impacted by this law.  She also provides background on both the groups supporting this law and fighting it. Beyond covering an issue of importance to the Foundation’s grantee, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and extensively relying on information from its Executive Director Lynn Paltrow and  Director of Policy and Advocacy Emma Ketteringham, this article is remarkable for its exploration of the complexities around this law and the criminalization of several women who have used drugs during their pregnancies.


It soon becomes clear that these are tough cases to get involved with because the women are not always that sympathetic; they can be bad mothers and they may be engaging in illegal activity.  On the other hand, the article exposes that these cases are often more complicated.  These women do seem to care about their children and they have often struggled with addiction so abandoning drugs during pregnancy proves quite difficult.


Regardless of your feelings towards these women, one thing remains clear.   Advocates, like NAPW, continue to take on these critical cases because they are extremely important for defending women’s rights and fighting fetal personhood laws that have appeared around the country.  In fact,
[Ms. Ketteringham] argues that applying Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law to pregnant women “violates constitutional guarantees of liberty, privacy, equality, due process and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.” In effect, she says, under Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law, pregnant women have become “a special class of people that should be treated differently from every other citizen.”
They also argue that criminalizing these behaviors is neither appropriate for the families nor the health of women.  Alternative measures need to be created that respond in a way to encourage healthy behaviors rather than take away the rights of women in favor of fetuses.  We truly recommend you read this article.  It offers a nuanced examination of an extremely complicated set of issues that bring about these laws and why it is important to support NAPW’s challenge, despite personal feelings towards the mothers.  Again, to read the article, please click here.


Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules to Keep Unconstitutional Personhood Measure Off Ballot

This past month, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal petition against efforts to put a personhood initiative onto the ballot in Oklahoma in November.  This week, the state’s Supreme Court ruled on this legal challenge upholding the constitution and earlier rulings of the US Supreme Court by unanimously deciding to bar putting this measure to a public vote.  This ballot initiative would have proposed giving a fertilized egg“personhood” and the affiliated rights that are afforded to a person.  Despite appearing in many US states over the past five years, these personhood measures have dangerous implications for the safety and rights of pregnant women and women seeking abortions or fertility treatments. It would have banned abortion under any circumstance, banned several contraceptive options and could create legal challenges for medical care providers serving pregnant women and the women seeking this health care. 


Many of Overbrook’s reproductive justice and domestic human rights grantees, including those listed above, have worked to defeat these measures through legal challenges (i.e. Oklahoma) or through grassroots mobilization and coalition building (i.e. Mississippi). We are glad to hear that the court has recognized the constitutional rights of Oklahoman women and that many organizations continue to successfully fight for the rights and health of American women in spite of these personhood strategies. For more information, click here to read an article from the Wall Street Journal, here to read an article from the Tulsa World, here to read the Center for Reproductive Rights’ press release on the victory and here for its description of the petition against ballot measure.  

'We Belong Together' Delegation Visits Alabama

As part of the We Belong Together campaign, several leaders representing the immigrant rights, women’s rights and other organizations within the social justice field travelled to Alabama in solidarity with those affected by the state’s harsh anti-immigrant law, HB 56, to hear firsthand about the experience of living under this law. We Belong Together’s delegation is co-led by Overbrook grantee NAPAWF and its Executive Director Miriam Yeung and includes a team from another Overbrook grantee Breakthrough and its Executive Director, Mallika Dutt. One of the first blog posts that I wrote for Overbrook was about this law, considered by many to be the country’s harshest anti-immigrant law.The implementation of this law is separating families with detention and deportation policies; denying access to livelihoods, housing, education and health care; and depriving many Alabamans of their human rights and civil liberties.In her blog, Ms. Yeung has stated, "when you lift the veil of sexism, racism, and xenophobia, it is clear to see that when people are being denied shelter, food, education and other basic human needs, this is a humanitarian crisis and an extreme human rights concern.“Through this delegation, the group plans to expose and increase awareness of the situation facing these women and their families, as well as their leadership and resilience in responding to it.They have become engaged in this particular focus on women and children because these groups represent those most disproportionately affected by the law.

This delegation is particularly interesting because of its use of a gendered lens to look at immigrant rights issues and to incorporate leaders from many different sectors of the social justice field through a human rights framework.With human right at the heart of the initiative, these leaders have acted in solidarity as human rights defenders spreading these stories to broader audiences and laying the groundwork for future advocacy campaigns.Moving this out of a solely immigrants rights issue had already begun, but it is critical that these laws be challenged on multiple fronts and angles as seen in this initiative.

I am particularly impressed by the communication efforts being used to magnify the visibility and the articulation of the human rights crisis in Alabama.We can all remotely participate in this delegation visit by following participating activists’ tweets. Mallika Dutt, Executive Director of Breakthrough has been keeping her twitter followers up to date on the presentations and devastating stories that she has heard in Alabama.(Click here to view her twitter page.) Some examples include:

@mallikadutt: 14 year old Jocelyn alone now because parents deported. She stayed because mother has dreams for her. We are killing dreams #womentogether

@mallikadutt: Sylvia says battered women cannot seek help because both women and service provide can get arrested #womentogether

@mallikadutt: Campaign to lift up women stories to show how immigration enforcement devastating our families. #webelongtogether asks women to join fight.

The delegates have also contributed to a blog explaining their reasons for joining this delegation based on their personal, organizational, social justice and human rights-based backgrounds and perspectives.Here is Miriam Yeung’s blog post, “A Blog Carnival Celebrating Our Common Humanity: ‘We Belong Together’ Goes to Alabama!”, which also contains links to statements by all the other delegates, including Ms. Dutt’s “Why I’m Joining ‘We Belong Together’ in Alabama”. Additionally, Ms. Yeung’s post and the We Belong Together website include several stories from Alabaman women and children about the law’s impact on their families’ ability to access housing, health care, employment and schooling.In some of the cases, we hear of deportation and detention tearing families apart. These arguments from the delegates and, most importantly, hearing the stories from Alabamans themselves, are extremely powerful, so I hope that you have the time to explore them.

The Foundation is proud to support women’s groups’ leaders and their partners in Alabama for taking critical leadership roles in this fight for immigrant rights and domestic human rights.