ACLU Launches New Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative to Confront the Criminalization of Abortion Care

The initiative will establish a network of criminal defense attorneys to work with the ACLU to defend against criminal investigations, charges and prosecutions related to abortion care.

March 1, 2023 10:00 am

WASHINGTON — Today the American Civil Liberties Union is unveiling its new Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative (ACDI) to help those facing prosecution for providing, supporting, or seeking abortion care so that they will not stand alone at a moment when abortion access is facing relentless, unprecedented attacks.

The initiative will confront the criminalization of abortion care in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, by establishing and working alongside a network of experienced criminal defense attorneys across the country prepared to defend health care providers, patients, and those who assist patients facing criminal investigations, charges, or prosecutions.

To lead this work, the ACLU has hired Lauren Johnson to serve as the Director of the Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative. Lauren is a former public defender with the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C. (PDS) and a former E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow of the Georgetown University Law Center’s Criminal Justice Clinic. Most recently, she served as Senior Counsel at NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she led litigation and policy initiatives focused on lasting and systemic change in the criminal legal system. She also served as Senior Legal Counsel at the Justice Collaborative, where she worked to address systemic drivers of incarceration in local criminal legal systems across the country.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has stripped women of control over their bodies and lives, putting their health and lives at risk. In this unprecedented moment for our reproductive freedom, the ACLU and the network of experienced criminal defense attorneys we are building will be at the ready,” said Lauren Johnson, director of the Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative.

The effects of banning abortion fall hardest on women and people with low-incomes, people of color, young people, and other marginalized communities who are more likely to suffer the health, economic, and life consequences of being forced to continue a pregnancy to term. As with criminal law enforcement in general, the people who are most likely to be investigated and prosecuted are Black, Brown, and those with low incomes.

“By criminalizing essential healthcare, politicians and prosecutors deny the humanity of people who become pregnant, seeking to control their bodies, and determine their futures. We are here and we are ready to fight for providers, supporters and those who receive abortion care. They will not stand alone,” said Yasmin Cader, deputy legal director of the ACLU.

The ACLU has a long history of defending both the right to reproductive freedom and the rights of people targeted by criminal punishment systems. We have a presence in every state, D.C., and Puerto Rico to establish our network of criminal defense attorneys. We also have deep connections with the communities we seek to serve, including those closest to the harm.

To learn more about the ACLU’s Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative, visit our site:

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