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Lovill Oral Arguments in Austin

Oct 9th, 2009 | Category: Women and Jails

Texas Jail Project director Diana Claitor sat in on the hearing at the Court of Criminal Appeals, October 21 (see details below). She was there out of concern about civil rights and the rights of pregnant women in particular. Texas Jail Project is one of 52 groups, experts and advocates, from Texas and the U.S., that joined in signing the amicus brief for Amber Lovill’s case. Here is the email from our friends and allies at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

On October 21, 2009 at 9 am, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case of Ex parte Amber Lovill. This case involves Ms. Amber Lovill, who became pregnant while on probation for a non-violent crime. After successfully serving more than two years of her three-year probation sentence, which included the requirement that she address her drug problem and abstain from drug use, Ms. Lovill experienced a single relapse. Because Ms. Lovill was pregnant, her probation officers departed from normal practice and filed immediately for probation revocation. They contacted the local warrant officer to have Ms. Lovill arrested immediately and incarcerated in the Nueces County Jail. Probation officers acknowledged that her pregnancy and their alleged concern for the health of Ms. Lovill’s “unborn child” motivated the arrest and imprisonment.

Ms. Lovill challenged her incarceration as gender discrimination, arguing that she was selectively prosecuted because of her pregnancy and gender. Last year, a mid-level Texas appellate court agreed with Ms. Lovill and found that the State discriminated against her based on her gender. The State appealed the decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas. The State argued that it didn’t discriminate based on pregnancy, instead, Ms. Lovill was incarcerated because “it is common knowledge that pregnancy often causes added stress, anxiety, and physical sickness to the expectant mother. Such can only add to the difficultly of complying with conditions of probation and of maintaining the willpower necessary to overcome a drug addiction. Turning a blind eye to the fact of pregnancy defies logic and the reality of the situation.” Further, the State argued “the sanction in question was, at most, merely an inconvenience, and a best, a means to help the mother control her drug problem.”

In August, NAPW filed an amicus brief on behalf of 52 Texas and national medical, public health, and child welfare experts and advocates arguing that the probation revocation lacked medical and public health basis and that incarceration does not further the health interests of pregnant women or the fetuses they carry. The amicus brief also noted that the State resorts to age-old stereotypes to defend its decision to incarcerate Ms. Lovill. As the amicus brief points out, the State’s assumptions about pregnancy and methamphetamine lack scientific basis and are inaccurate with regard to drug treatment. The ACLU and ACLU of Texas also filed an amicus brief arguing that Ms. Lovill’s incarceration was impermissible gender discrimination.

NAPW is asking allies in the Austin area to attend the hearing on October 21 to observe the court and report back to NAPW and your own organization about what you experience.

The hearing will be at 9 am on Wednesday, October 21, 2009.
Court of Criminal Appeals
Supreme Court Building
201 West 14th Street, Room 106
Austin, Texas 78701

Kathrine Jack
Staff Attorney
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
15 W. 36th Street, Suite 901
New York, NY 10018
212.255.9252, ext. 25

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