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11/27/2013- MotherWoman Cited in Maternal Rights Case

For Immediate Release

MotherWoman Cited in Maternal Rights Case

Contact: Liz Friedman, MotherWoman Program Director Office: (413)-387-0703 liz@motherwoman.org

In December 2012, Sara McKenna, then 7 months pregnant, moved from California to New York to pursue her education at Columbia University. Bode Miller, the biological father, brought a case against McKenna for kidnapping the child (still in utero) by moving.  Months later, a New York court ruled in favor of Miller, who took the child to California, where a judge granted custody to Miller. Both state rulings sparked major legal battles with women’s rights advocates and lawyers spearheading the appeals.

 On November 14th, 2013, a court determined that McKenna did not kidnap her in utero child to another state, and ultimately allowed McKenna to regain custody of her child, who is now nine months old, until the next court appearance.

 "The referee's decision had far-reaching implications for pregnant women, effectively stripping them of fundamental constitutional rights," said Sarah Burns, Professor of Clinical Law at NYU Law and Director of the Reproductive Justice Clinic.

While the Reproductive Justice Clinic and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women spearheaded this court case, a number of organizations were asked to support McKenna in an amici curia brief. MotherWoman agreed to support this brief and was subsequently cited in the court proceedings. MotherWoman was one of twelve organizations listed in the court brief along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood of New York City, and Choices in Childbirth.

Executive Director Shannon Koehn said “MotherWoman’s inclusion in these briefs is a huge milestone for us.  Constitutional rights cases surrounding maternal issues are a growing in the United States. As an organization whose mission is to support and empower mothers, MotherWoman’s position on this case helps impact a wider conversation fighting for maternal justice.”

Program Director Liz Friedman said, “It’s outrageous to think that a woman can be denied her selfhood and autonomy while pregnant, and that the courts would uphold such a decision. The overturning of this case is a victory for us all, protecting women’s basic constitutional rights at the intersection of our motherhood, womanhood and personhood. A pregnant woman must have authority over her own movements and not be subject to control by the biological father or the state while pregnant.”

MotherWoman serves mothers and families through support groups and training with community leaders and professionals to facilitate groups for mothers across the region. MotherWoman trains medical, mental health and social service professionals about postpartum depression and anxiety. They have developed and continue to host county-based multi-disciplinary coalitions in implementing their nationally recognized Community-based Perinatal Support Model. MotherWoman engaging mothers, fathers and caregivers in taking action on policies that impact families. http://www.motherwoman.org

The National Advocates for Pregnant Women works to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable to state control and punishment - low income women, women of color, and drug-using women. http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org

 Link the Court Brief: http://www.law.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/Docket%20%23%20V-9682-13%20%20S%20A%20McK%20v%20S%20B%20M%20--%209-26-13.pdf