Our Year in Review

We tracked pregnancy-related prosecutions and civil lawsuits and supported lawyers defending against this criminalization.

  • The Project is a lead collaborator on a nationwide Pregnancy Prosecutions Tracking Study, in partnership with Pregnancy Justice, The University of Tennessee College of Law, and others. We expect the preliminary results from this study to be published in the fall.
  • Due to this research, we were able to provide legal information and analysis to lawyers representing several people charged with crimes related to their pregnancy. This led to the dismissal of six pending felony charges, while a seventh charge is being contested through post-conviction habeas filings.
  • No one in Texas has been criminally charged with the new crime of abortion, however abortion funds have been the targets of pre-suit discovery requests related to supporting abortion access and individuals have been sued for wrongful death related to abortions.
  • We have been tracking these civil suits and working on a detailed analysis of the claims these civil suits make about criminal law.

Cristina I. Ramirez became the Project’s Criminal Defense Lead in July of 2023. Cristina (right) brings more than ten years of experience as a public defender to this role.

We created a hub for scholarship and research on reproductive justice and criminal law at UT.

  • Five leading reproductive justice scholars presented their work as part of our Fall 2023 colloquium on “Reproductive Justice, Criminal Law, and the Carceral State.”
  • We worked with partners across campus to bring Dr. Caitlin Killian from Drew University to UT for an event on her recently published book, Failing Moms: Social Condemnation and Criminalization of Mothers (Polity, 2023).
  • The Project is a founding member of a new reproductive justice working group at UT and we presented at its inaugural cross-campus workshop for faculty.

(Left) Cynthia Conti-Cook on “Digital Bodies and Borders.” (Right) Professors Jennifer Glass and Caitlin Killian discussing Killian’s new book.

We engaged with national leaders on issues of reproductive justice.

  • We are participating in a multidisciplinary working group on the floating lungs test which has been used to support criminal convictions based on pregnancy outcomes.
  • Project staff has attended conferences on abortion bans and pregnancy criminalization created by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
  • We were invited to attend ComstockCon at Harvard Law School, where we participated in a multidisciplinary and multi-issue conference on the history and future of the Comstock Act.
  • We spoke on the “Emerging Areas in Abortion Law and Policy” panel to state legislators from across the country as part of The Oneil for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law and SIX’s “Beyond Borders” Conference.

(Left) Students and members of the UT Law chapter of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice at their “Know Your Rights” event.

We supported student scholarship, research, and professional opportunities.

  • Two UT Law students—Gwynn Marotta and Nayna Hatangadi—worked with the Project as Sissy Farenthold Reproductive Justice Scholars over the 2023-2024 academic year.
  • Project staff helped UT Law students develop “Know Your Rights” trainings for UT undergraduate and law students about reproductive rights and abortion care in Texas.
  • We welcomed two Reproductive Justice Summer Legal Fellows: Summer 2023 Fellow Ortal Isaac from UC-Berkeley School of Law and Summer 2024 Fellow Amy Johnson from University of Iowa School of Law.
  • The Project hosted visiting post-doctoral researchers, Helen Jennings and Julia Martens, studying law and reproduction in Texas, the United States, and other nations.

(Left) Cristina I. Ramirez, Criminal Defense Lead, and Blake Rocap, Project Director, presenting to a group of lawyers.

We provided accurate legal information about the state of the law in Texas to lawyers, medical students, grassroots organizations, and UT faculty. 

  • The Texas abortion bans spawned many new legal questions. We have answered inquiries from other lawyers, law professors, documentarians, grassroots organizations, and other community members to clarify the law.
  • We provided information on prosecutions of pregnancy outcomes and offered resources at the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course.
  • We offer presentations, including, “Abortion Bans, Criminal Law, and Pregnancy Prosecution in Texas,” for lawyers, healthcare providers, advocates, law students, medical students, and members of the public.
  • If your group is interested in a presentation on Texas law (which could include a 1 hour of continuing legal education credit), please contact us using this form or by emailing ReproductiveJustice@law.utexas.edu.

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions, or if you are aware of cases of pregnancy criminalization. And mark your calendars—we’ll be hosting another colloquium dedicated to reproductive justice on Monday afternoons this fall!

Thank you again for your partnership and support over the past year.

Blake Rocap and Cristina I. Ramirez