The Human Rights of Women: Lynn Paltrow
August 2, 2019
“What are the human rights and civil rights of pregnant women?”
Lynn Paltrow is the Founder and Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. We take a deep dive into the consequences of recognizing fetal personhood for the human rights of women and how reproductive health is at the center of the fight for equal rights.
The human rights of women
The health needs of half of our population – women – include maternal and reproductive health. Equal rights mean that women can access the health care they need. Until we take into account the capacity for pregnancy, women will never achieve equality. The very survival of our species depends on meeting these needs.
Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, anti-abortion activists have sought to establish fetuses, fertilized eggs, and embryos as separate entities with full constitutional rights. If they succeed, pregnant women lose their full rights under the Constitution. Arguments for the rights of the fetus have been used to force pregnant women to undergo caesarian surgery and apply existing criminal laws against pregnant women for child endangerment.
The legacy of slavery
The United States is a country that was founded in part on the principle that some people can own and control the bodies of others. This ideology is still affecting us today, and in this case extends to the state exerting control over the body of pregnant women: arresting them, taking their children away, subjecting them to surgery, or surveilling them for the period of their pregnancy.
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Lynn Paltrow is the Founder and Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. She has worked on numerous cases challenging restrictions on the right to choose abortion as well cases opposing the prosecution and punishment of pregnant women seeking to continue their pregnancies to term. Ms. Paltrow has served as a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, as Director of Special Litigation at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, and as Vice President for Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City. Ms. Paltrow is the recipient of the Justice Gerald Le Dain Award for Achievement in the Field of Law and the National Women’s Health Network’s Barbara Seaman Award for Activism in Women’s Health. She is a frequent guest lecturer and writer for popular press, law reviews, and peer-reviewed journals. The New York Times editorial piece that Mila mentions in the interview is accessible here: A Woman’s Rights.
Follow National Advocates for Pregnant Women on Twitter @NAPW and Lynn Paltrow @LynnPaltrow.