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National Organization for Women joins long march against drug war

Meeting for its annual convention in Knoxville, TN on July 1-2, 2005, the National Organization for Women approved a resolution (below) opposing the current drug war and calling instead for an approach to drug use, abuse, and addiction that emphasizes compassion, health, and human rights. In addition, the resolution calls on NOW to educate its membership about the harms perpetrated by current drug policy and to create an ad hoc committee to develop an action plan to work for drug policy reform.

NOW is the nation's largest feminist organization, with some 500,000 contributing members and 550 local chapters. While it is best known for its defense of abortion rights, NOW is dedicated to achieving equality for women, and equal justice for all.

NOW's collective decision to take on the drug war came as a result of a careful intervention. A handful of drug reform activists -- including Deborah Small of Break the Chains, Angelyn Frazer of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Wyndi Anderson of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy executive director Scarlett Swerdlow - laid the groundwork for the resolution by organizing and hosting a session at the NOW convention exposing the drug war's dire consequences for women, children, broke people, and minorities.

"With Deborah's help, I was able to draft a resolution that the NOW Congress voted on," said Swerdlow in a message to supporters announcing the news. "The gist of it is that NOW has adopted a resolution opposing the war on drugs."
Thanks to good work on the ground in Knoxville, drug reform's long march just got one step shorter.

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Women's Rights - Another Casualty of the Drug War

Resolution from The National Organization for Women

WHEREAS the incarceration rate of women convicted of low-level drug-related offenses has increased dramatically in the past decade as a result of our nation's relentless "war on drugs." Poor women and women of color have been disproportionately targeted for drug law enforcement and receive long mandatory prison sentences that have little relationship to their actions or culpability.

WHEREAS two thirds of women in prison have at least two children who are displaced as a result of their incarceration, often forced to live in the care of family, friends, or state sponsored foster care where they may be at increased risk of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse,

WHEREAS women's unique patterns of drug abuse and addiction and special treatment needs are inadequately addressed as women often turn to drugs to cope with undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, and/or the trauma of physical or sexual abuse, or other stresses particular to women,

WHEREAS the intersection of substance use and pregnancy are increasingly the focus of drug law enforcement,

WHEREAS violence against women and other circumstances specific to women's involvement in drug-related activities are often overlooked or ignored in sentencing, such as situations where women who have been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused by boyfriends or husbands involved in drug operations are dependent on these men and unlikely to turn to the authorities,

WHEREAS after incarceration women continue to bear the stigma and burden of post-conviction sanctions that constitute collateral consequences of incarceration impeding their reintegration into society, including denial of access to public housing, public assistance and food stamps, higher education aid and civic participation, effectively making them second-class citizens

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women (NOW) iterate its opposition to the War on Drugs and in its steadfast support an approach to drug abuse and addiction that promotes compassion, public health and human rights; and

AND THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW educate its membership about the harms the "War on Drugs" inflicts on women using the NOW website, NOW materials and literature, and regular NOW legislative updates, including updates on pending legislation that would negatively impact women; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that an ad hoc committee be convened to research current drug policy that has a particular impact on women and report back to the leadership and membership at the next national conference on a potential action plan to be implemented locally and nationally in conjunction with other organizations currently working towards the same objectives.

This incredible Mother's Day display was lovingly constructed by hand, from recycled paper and mimeographed photos, by incarcerated women at FPC Pekin, Illinois. The November Coalition will be taking this display to The March on Washington, DC., The Drug Policy Alliance Conference in Long Beach, CA and several other events this year. Our thanks to Tobi Crossland and the women of Pekin for making this available to us.

Holding the display are Coalition staffers Tom Murlowski (left) and Jennifer Asher.

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