Prosecutors and the Criminalization of Pregnancy

Black people should be treated with dignity and respect when choosing whether or not to have a child. Prosecutors have a responsibility to help make happen. 

Lawmakers around the nation are campaigning to overturn Roe v. Wade and pass unconstitutional abortion bans and restrictions. Increased restrictions on abortion access have forced pregnant people to live in fear: an abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, or simply doing or not doing something during pregnancy could lead to consequences like arrest, prosecution, prison sentences, allegations of child abuse, and loss of parental rights. 

At least 1,600 people around the United States have been prosecuted and punished for actions that would not be considered crimes if they were not pregnant. This includes taking legal drugs prescribed by their doctor, experiencing a miscarriage, getting into a car accident, and even falling down the stairs.

Prosecutors have the power to enact policies that discourage law enforcement from arresting pregnant people based on pregnancy outcomes. It’s their responsibility to alleviate the fear that an abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, or any pregnancy outcome could result in a prison sentence. 

 Pregnancy and all of its potential outcomes – birth, abortion, miscarriage and stillbirth – are personal matters. They are medical matters. They are equity matters. They are not criminal matters.

We demand that prosecutors:

  • Commit to not prosecute abortion as well as other pregnancy outcomes and a public stance reaffirming this position. 
  • Implement a declination policy that ensures child-bearers will not be prosecuted for their pregnancy outcomes and that feticide laws will not be used as a proxy for punishing pregnancy loss, including but not limited to:
    • Refusing to prosecute pregnant people related to miscarriages, stillbirths, or any form of pregnancy loss.
    • Refusing to prosecute pregnant people related to actions during pregnancy, including medically-assisted or self-managed abortion, drug use/possession/distribution during pregnancy where the fetus, embryo, or fertilized egg is the alleged recipient, attempted suicide, fighting, or car accidents.
    • Refusing to prosecute pregnant people for alleged inactions during pregnancy, for not obtaining or consenting to medical treatment, not reporting a pregnancy loss or outcome or actions or omissions of people who are often victims, characterized as a failure to protect their fetus, embryo, fertilized egg or child.
  • Commit to a plan to train all staff in the district attorney office on a recurring basis and through publicly available training materials on the systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence regularly inflicted on Black child-bearers.
  • Fund community-based and community birth organizations working to improve maternal health outcomes for Black, brown, and Indigenous women.

Learn more at LiberatedBodies.Org.