Our Story & Mission
Since our founding in 2001 as National Advocates for Pregnant Women, we remain the leading legal advocacy organization fighting to protect pregnant people’s legal rights by defending those who’ve been criminalized.
We are guided by the principles of reproductive justice, a framework created and led by Black women. SisterSong defines reproductive justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.
Reproductive justice recognizes the interconnectedness of movements toward justice. Reproductive justice is environmental justice, immigrant justice, racial justice, economic justice, and trans justice.
The criminal legal system and family regulation system should never be involved in pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes. All people are entitled to dignity, equality, and respect regardless of race, religion, national origin, immigration status, disability, gender, sexual orientation, capacity for pregnancy, or pregnancy.
The threat of pregnancy criminalization, like the criminal legal system itself, targets communities of color and is deeply rooted in racism. Even though our work requires that we engage with these systems, we must also commit to dismantling them.
White feminists organize an abortion rights march in Washington, D.C., where Black women in attendance are excluded from planning and decision making. In response, seven women — including Loretta Ross and eventual National Advocates for Pregnant Women founder Lynn M. Paltrow — create “In Defense of Roe,” a conference that centers women of color. Ross later co-founds the reproductive justice movement.
Lynn M. Paltrow starts National Advocates for Pregnant Women and Their Children in early 1998 as a one-person project. In September, the project receives a two-year grant and support from the Women’s Law Project, officially launching as National Advocates for Pregnant Women. The organization is guided by the principles of reproductive justice.
Ten women who were subjected to warrantless drug testing when they gave birth and had those results turned over to police, win their case against the hospital that violated their Fourth Amendment rights when the U.S. Supreme Court rules in their favor in Ferguson v. City of Charleston. The Medical University Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, had been targeting mainly Black women for cocaine use. Lynn M. Paltrow litigated the case with Susan K. Dunn.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women becomes an independent, nonprofit organization.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women holds its first national conference: “Maternal-State Conflicts: Claims of Fetal Rights and the Well-Being of Women and Families.” The four-day event brings together more than 175 experts and activists in support of abortion rights and access as well as opposition to the fetal personhood movement.
Hosted by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and co-sponsored by dozens of organizations such as SisterSong, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Planned Parenthood, the “National Summit to Ensure the Health and Humanity of Pregnant and Birthing Women” brings together more than 300 people committed to birth rights, abortion rights, and the dignity of all pregnant people.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women helps create and sustain the “Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice” conference, held annually from 2012 to 2018 in Oklahoma. Hundreds of people from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and other red states attend, proving that reproductive justice activists are everywhere.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women helps secure a misdemeanor plea deal for Bei Bei Shuai, who was charged with murder and attempted feticide for attempting suicide when she was 33 weeks pregnant. The case prompted national outrage.
The Indiana Court of Appeals overturns Purvi Patel’s conviction for the crime of feticide, affirming that Indiana’s feticide law may not be used to punish someone for having or attempting to have an abortion. She had been sentenced to 20 years in prison and had been incarcerated for one year and four months before her feticide conviction was overturned. NAPW organized a massive amicus effort and generated national outrage.
A federal district court in Wisconsin declares Wisconsin’s Act 292, or the “cocaine mom law,” unconstitutional. Under the act, Tammy Loertscher’s fetus was granted an attorney while she was incarcerated and held in solitary confinement after she disclosed a history of drug use to medical staff. On appeal, National Advocates for Pregnant Women argued on behalf of Tamara, but the lower court’s ruling was overturned on procedural grounds because Tammy was returning to Wisconsin. The law remains in effect.
Chelsea Becker’s 19-month legal battle ends when a Kings County, California, judge dismisses Ms. Becker’s murder charge for experiencing a stillbirth that was unscientifically blamed on methamphetamine use. Ms. Becker was jailed from November 8, 2019 until March 9, 2021. The dismissal is consistent with every California court decision rejecting the misuse of the state’s murder law to arrest people who lose or terminate a pregnancy.
After four long years in prison, Adora Perez’s murder charge for experiencing a stillbirth is dropped by the Kings County District Attorney. She previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the nonexistent crime of experiencing a pregnancy loss, which a California court found unconstitutional, sending the case back to trial on murder charges. Ms. Perez had been serving an 11-year sentence. Her pregnancy loss was unscientifically blamed on methamphetamine use.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women changes its name to Pregnancy Justice, reflecting our all-encompassing fight for and intersectionality of reproductive justice. The decision is more than a year in the making and includes input from leaders in the reproductive, social, birth, racial, and gender justice spaces.
After more than four decades in the fight for reproductive rights, health, and justice and more than two decades at the helm of Pregnancy Justice, founder and Executive Director Lynn M. Paltrow announces that she will be stepping down from her role and day-to-day management of the organization in May 2023.
Lourdes A. Rivera, a seasoned nonprofit executive in law, advocacy, and philanthropy, becomes president of Pregnancy Justice in September 2023. She brings to the role more than 30 years of experience as a recognized leader in reproductive rights, health, and justice.
Pregnancy Justice releases new findings on pregnancy-related criminalization across the U.S., covering 2006 up to the 2022 Dobbs decision, documenting 1,396 cases. The study provides the most comprehensive information about pregnancy criminalization to date and builds on our groundbreaking first study, which documented 413 cases from the Roe decision through 2005. The data is critical to understanding our post-Dobbs future.