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In the Headlines

3 May 2012

Alabama Law Impinges on Rights of Pregnant Women, Says Grantee

National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), a grantee of our Promoting Reproductive Rights and the Right to Sexual Health initiative, was featured prominently in a recent New York Times Magazine feature exploring how Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law is being used to prosecute pregnant women who use drugs. In the article, Emma Ketteringham, director of legal advocacy at NAPW, argues that applying the law in this manner “violates constitutional guarantees of liberty, privacy, equality, due process and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.” Through our work on Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights, the foundation supports NAPW’s efforts to protect the rights and human dignity of all pregnant and parenting women.

Published in The New York Times Magazine

The Criminalization of Bad Mothers

April 25, 2012 By Ada Calhoun

On a rainy day just after Thanksgiving, Amanda Kimbrough played with her 2-year-old daughter in her raw-wood-paneled living room, petting her terriers and half-watching TV. Kimbrough, who is 32, lives a few miles outside Russellville, a town of fewer than 10,000 in rural northwestern Alabama, near the border of Franklin and Colbert Counties. Textiles were the economic engine of the area until the 1990s, when the industry went into decline and mills shut down. Now one of the region’s leading employers is Pilgrim’s, a chicken supplier. The median household income is $31,213, and more than a third of children live below the poverty line.

As family members came in and out of the room and one daytime show slid into another—“The People’s Court,” “Intervention,” “Jerry Springer,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”—Kimbrough talked about her arrest following the death of her third child, Timmy Jr. Born premature at 25 weeks on April 29, 2008, Timmy Jr. weighed 2 pounds 1 ounce, and lived only 19 minutes. When Kimbrough tested positive for methamphetamine, her two daughters were swiftly removed from her custody, and for 90 days, she was allowed only supervised visits. Social services mandated parenting classes and drug treatment.

That would have been a typical response in most places, but Alabama is different. Six months after Timmy Jr.’s death, the district attorney in Colbert County charged Kimbrough with chemical endangerment of a child, a Class A felony (because the infant died) that carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life. She turned herself in, and bail was set at $250,000. At the trial, the state completed its case in two days. On the advice of her lawyer, Kimbrough then pleaded guilty and received the minimum sentence of 10 years.

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