FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2018
Bill Would Ensure Written Medical Care Policies for Pregnant Inmates
(Annapolis, Md.) – New legislation that would ensure pregnant inmates in Maryland have access to timely, quality healthcare will be heard in the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee this afternoon. House Bill 787 / Senate Bill SB 629 would require all correction facilities in the state to develop written policies regarding medical care for pregnant inmates. The bill is sponsored by Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-15) and and Senator Delores Kelley (D-10).
“All female inmates are entitled to proper medical care, and, as a progressive state, there is no reason for pregnant female inmates to struggle to receive proper prenatal and birth medical services,” said Delegate Dumais.
While the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW), Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore County all have some lwritten policies regarding the specific care of pregnant inmates, a majority of facilities located in the state do not.
The bill directs state correctional facilities, local jurisdictions and privately-owned facilities to develop written policies regarding the care of pregnant inmates. The bill provides facilities with the flexibility to define those polices, but requires the policies address specific topics including pregnancy testing, prenatal care, access to abortion care, high risk pregnancies, miscarriage management, labor and delivery, postpartum care, and the use of restraints on pregnant inmates.
“Pregnancy and birth are unpredictable and life-changing events,” said Senator Kelley. “This bill will ensure that both pregnant individuals and corrections staff have a better understanding of the types of medical care and services that should be provided at each facility. No woman or girl in our state should be subjected to poor pregnancy-related medical care as an additional punishment to her sentence.”
Due to the conditions of incarceration, it is difficult for inmates to receive adequate rest, nutrition, medical information and support during a pregnancy. The health risks associated with pregnancy are often exacerbated by these challenging conditions. Pregnant individuals also require specific and timely healthcare services to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
The Reproductive Justice Inside Coalition has heard from a number of returning citizens who were pregnant while incarcerated, as well as family members of inmates who have experienced a pregnancy while incarcerated. Many of these individuals reported they were not informed about their care and were unaware of the types of care they were entitled to receive. The Coalition also heard reports detailing a lack of pregnancy options counseling, prenatal testing, access to test results, improper response to miscarriages, forced C-sections and many other lapses in care.
“It is so unfortunate that the health and safety of incarcerated women and girls is put at risk due to inadequate policies. We believe the absence of policies across the state is alarming and needs to be addressed immediately,” said Monica Cooper, chief executive officer of Maryland Justice Project. “As inmates pay their debt to society, they should not be subjected to inhumane treatment, regardless of their past actions. It is time the correctional facilities across the state of Maryland and the United States treat inmates with the humanity and dignity all human beings deserve. We believe this bill is one step toward that goal.”
Another bill supported by Reproductive Justice Inside, HB 797/SB 598, would require all corrections facilities to provide mentrual hygiene products to inmates free of charge and in the quantities they need. It will also be heard in the Judiciary Committee today.
Read a fact sheet about both bills here.
Members of the Reproductive Justice Inside coalition include: American College of Nurse Midwives – Maryland Affiliate; Baltimore Doula Project; Center on Applied Feminism, University of Baltimore School of Law; Gender Violence Clinic, University of Maryland School of Law; Heels & Hustle; If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice; University of Baltimore School of Law; Interfaith Action for Human Rights; Justice and Recovery Advocates; Life After Release; Maryland Justice Project; Maryland State Conference of the NAACP; NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland; Planned Parenthood of Maryland; Not Without Black Women; Power Inside; Pregnancy in Prison Statistics; The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Inc.; Whole Woman’s Health of Baltimore; and Women’s Justice Consortium.
Reproductive Justice Inside (RJI) is a statewide coalition advocating for increased access to quality sexual and reproductive healthcare in Maryland’s correctional and detention facilities. This includes the women’s state prison, county jails, juvenile facilities and local detention centers used for ICE detainers. Through story collection, policy research and organizing, Reproductive Justice Inside aims to increase public awareness of reproductive healthcare issues in Maryland’s correctional system and address conditions of confinement where systems-involved individuals are not in complete control of their reproductive futures and freedom.