Friday, July 6, 2007

From the National Advocates for Pregnant Women

Prosecution of Woman for Pregnancy Loss Draws State and National Criticism

Over 150 Leading Medical and Public Health Organizations, Experts, and Related Advocates Say Prosecution Will Undermine Fetal and Maternal Health

Today over 150 medical, public health, and advocacy groups, as well as leading medical health care providers and experts, sent an open letter to the Oklahoma County District Attorney's office opposing the prosecution of Theresa Lee Hernandez. She has been charged with first-degree murder for suffering a stillbirth at 32 weeks of pregnancy based on the highly questionable medical claim that the pregnancy loss can be attributed to Ms. Hernandezs drug use during pregnancy. Ms. Hernandez is being held in jail awaiting disposition of her case.

The letters signatories, including the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and organizations concerned with perinatal loss and bereavement, state that while they do not in any way condone a persons use of alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs that might affect pregnancy outcome or a persons ability to parent, their commitment to the care of pregnant women and their children, as well as the interests of society as a whole, requires us to speak out against dangerous and counterproductive measures such as the arrest of pregnant women and new mothers as murderers subject to life imprisonment.

The signatories stance aligns them with every leading medical organization to address this issue, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Nurse Midwives, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the March of Dimes. All agree that the problem of alcohol and drug use during pregnancy is a health issue best addressed through education and community-based treatment, not through the criminal justice system.

As Dr. Dana Stone, the Oklahoma state chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and one of the experts signing the letter, explained: "Stillbirths and miscarriages are unfortunately a risk of pregnancy for all women. Prosecuting women for pregnancy loss based on what they allegedly did or didn't do will only deter women from
seeking prenatal care and drug treatment, and that's ultimately bad for babies."

For a complete text of the letter and signatories, click here.

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