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News Release

NACDL Statement on Dobbs, the Criminalization of Pregnancy and Reproductive Health, and the Human Toll of Overcriminalization

Washington, DC (June 24, 2022) – Today, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, unleashing a new era of mass prosecution by authorizing states to criminalize abortion. While NACDL does not take a position on abortion, NACDL repudiates the criminalization of abortion because it will undoubtedly exacerbate the human toll of overcriminalization and mass incarceration generally and because it will punish the most vulnerable more harshly than others. NACDL has struggled for decades to instill balance, rationality, and justice to our criminal legal system and we will not surrender now.

NACDL, moreover, appreciates the magnitude of the struggle on the horizon. Our members, particularly public defenders, will be on the frontlines standing shoulder to shoulder with our clients. For this reason, NACDL is committed to supporting our members as we prepare to defend the waves of clients who will soon be charged with offenses ranging from obstruction of justice to manslaughter and homicide. As a first step, NACDL is launching a series of Criminalization of Pregnancy and Reproductive Health resources to provide training and support to our members.

In fact, NACDL has long anticipated and prepared for this moment. In August 2021, NACDL released a report outlining existing laws criminalizing abortion and analyzing the impact of overturning Roe v. Wade. As anticipated in NACDL’s report, the Supreme Court has now set the stage for prosecutions of women, their families, medical professionals, and others who arguably lend support in any form to a woman seeking an abortion – whether these prosecutions focus on a single woman suspected of ending a pregnancy by miscarriage or on a RICO-style enterprise involving dozens of individuals suspected of providing abortion services or support to women seeking abortions. In fact, women have already been arrested for miscarriages, suspected drug use while pregnant, and behaviors during pregnancy under existing chemical endangerment, manslaughter, and even homicide laws. 

“For decades, women have had the right to make their own choices in relation to reproductive health. Roe ushered in a legal precedent protecting women against prosecution,” said NACDL Past President Nina Ginsberg. “Without Roe, the floodgates are now open to prosecution on an unprecedented scale. Historically, it is the most vulnerable in our communities – those who are economically disadvantaged and people of color – who will be targeted. As a defense organization, we stand ever ready to protect the accused. We must remain vigilant to ensure their constitutional rights and civil liberties are not trampled in this new era.”

“NACDL has long championed liberty in the face of our national addiction to incarcerating people at a rate higher than any other country in the world,” said NACDL President MartĂ­n Sabelli. “Despite this painful reality, the Supreme Court has set in motion the historic expansion of state criminal laws into the realm of personal choice just at the moment when we were beginning to repair the devastating impact of decades of mass incarceration on individuals, families, and communities. NACDL and our members have struggled case by case and policy by policy to protect our clients and their communities from overcriminalization and we will not yield in the face of this new crisis.”

Learn more about NACDL’s Criminalization of Pregnancy and Reproductive Health resources.

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Contacts

Jessie Diamond, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-7647 or jdiamond@nacdl.org

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.