West Virginia among states arresting and punishing pregnant women
Nearly 1,400 people were arrested for actions related to their pregnancies between 2006 and the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022, according to a new report released on Tuesday. The data showed a sharp rise in how often people face criminal consequences over pregnancy.
Most cases involved allegations of substance use, even when there was no harm to the fetus or infant, according to a report from advocacy group Pregnancy Justice.
The criminalization disproportionately affects poor white and Black people living in the South, with nearly four in five cases coming from just five Southern states: Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.
West Virginia reported three cases, as well. Some states reported zero cases.
“Pregnancy Justice’s report shows that pregnant people are increasingly targeted for criminalization in ways that do not exist for people who are not pregnant, with dire consequences for themselves and their families,” said Lourdes A. Rivera, president of Pregnancy Justice.
The group defines pregnancy criminalization “as an instance in which someone is either arrested for reasons related to their pregnancy, or where the terms of their bail, sentencing, or probation are heightened because they became pregnant after being charged with an unrelated crime.”
The rise in pregnancy criminalization is fueled in large part by the rise of the concept of “fetal personhood” in anti-abortion rhetoric and laws, according to the report.
West Virginia’s Republican-led Legislature passed a sweeping abortion ban with few exceptions in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe.
The rates of pregnancy criminalization cases tripled since the last study in 2013, which covered a shorter time span.