- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

The National Organization for Women has backed down from an earlier announcement that it would raise money for confessed child killer Andrea Yates.

In a statement posted yesterday on NOW's Web site (www.now.org ) NOW President Kim Gandy says her group is not raising money for Mrs. Yates, nor did it ever create a defense fund.

"The Houston chapter directed people to a fund set up by her lawyers," Mrs. Gandy said.

The statement and other comments by Mrs. Gandy were released about the same time NOW got wind of a demonstration planned for noon yesterday outside its Washington headquarters at 733 15th Street NW.

The 19 demonstrators were angry over NOW's support of the 37-year-old mother, of Clear Lake, Texas, who faces capital murder charges in the deaths of sons Noah, 7; John, 5; and daughter Mary, 6 months. Police say that on June 20, she filled her bathtub with water, then systemically drowned each child. Her oldest child, Noah, put up a brief struggle.

She is not charged with the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2, but prosecutors plan to present evidence for that during trial. Mrs. Yates has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity due to depression after the birth of her fifth child last year.

"I don't think we should make excuses for murder," said Bishop Imagene Stewart, who represented the African American Women's Clergy Association at the rally. "If we let her get away with this, other women who are mad at their husbands will do it too, and just plead insanity."

The mostly female group of demonstrators hoisted signs like "Pro-Woman, Pro-Choice, Pro-Drowning?" and "NOW does not speak for me."

"It's wrong to kill your children and use your hormones as an excuse," said Audrey Mullen of the Independent Women's Action Project, the advocacy group that sponsored the demonstration.

Marie Jose-Ragab, chairman of the dissident Dulles chapter of NOW, said that the group's decision to back Mrs. Yates was not playing well with NOW's feminist constituency.

"It was a political decision to jump on it as soon as the Yates case came up," she said.

At its annual convention this summer, NOW passed a resolution urging better treatment of postpartum depression, saying that the state's response to Mrs. Yates' condition "is barbaric."

Then on Aug. 23, Deborah Bell, president of Texas NOW, announced that her group, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of anti-death-penalty groups, would help raise money for Mrs. Yates' defense fund.

She also announced a candlelight vigil the night of Sept. 11 at the Harris County Jail, where Mrs. Yates is being held in a psychiatric unit. A hearing is slated Sept. 12 on whether Mrs. Yates is competent to stand trial.

Mrs. Gandy says NOW is not excusing the crime.

"I have two little girls," she said. "This should be a wake-up call to the medical profession that they need to be talking to women about postpartum depression and especially about the fact that in a small number of cases, it can turn into psychosis.

"We think the death penalty is inappropriate involving a person who is mentally ill. As soon as I heard she was on Haldol, I thought, 'This was a serious psychosis.' This should have sent up a whole bunch of red flags to a whole lot of people. Why was this woman out of the hospital when she wasn't fully treated?"

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide