FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2018
Maryland General Assembly Passes Bills to Protect Reproductive Health, Dignity for Incarcerated Women
Legislation to ensure menstrual supplies, reproductive policies for women in correctional faciliites – the first of its kind in the nation – received bipartisan support
(Annapolis, Md.) – In the past few days, the Maryland General Assembly has approved two major pieces of legislation that will benefit incarcerated women. The House version of a bill to expand access to menstrual hygiene products for incarcerated women, HB 797/SB 598, has received final passage; the identical Senate bill is expected to pass imminently. The legislature also gave final passage to the House version of a groundbreaking bill, the first of its kind in the United States, that would help ensure pregnant inmates in the state have access to timely, quality healthcare. HB 787/SB 629 would require all correction facilities in the state to develop written policies regarding medical care for pregnant inmates and detainees.
“We are thrilled to see Maryland’s lawmakers step up in a big way to ensure fair and dignified treatment of women under the state’s care,” said Diana Philip, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, which convened the Reproductive Justice Inside coalition. “Incarcerated women have limited resources and are often forced to deal with poor conditions. Both of these bills take a step in the right direction to ensure their basic needs are met.”
Menstrual Hygiene Products
Although current regulations state that inmates and detainees are entitled to menstrual hygiene products, there are no stipulations that such products be provided affordably, or in adequate quantities. As a result, advocates and incarcerated women across the state report that access to these products is severely limited. The bill’s passage ensures that the products will be provided for free, on a routine basis, as well as by request.
“Ensuring that women’s basic sanitary needs are taken care of is not a partisan issue,” said bill sponsor Delegate Pam Queen (D-14). “The success of this bill was a great example of how the legislature can come together to solve an important problem.”
“Menstrual hygeine products should be considered basic necessities for women,” added Senator Susan Lee (D-16), who sponsored the Senate bill. “Ensuring women in prison have access to these products is simply the right thing to do.”
Policies for Pregnant Inmates
HB 787/SB 629 allows each jurisdiction or privately owned facility to develop their own reproductive health and services policies, but requires the policies to cover specific subjects such as pregnancy testing, prenatal care, abortion care access, high risk pregnancies, miscarriage management, labor and delivery, postpartum care, use of restraints, and many others. Each inmate with a positive pregnancy test must be given a copy of the facility’s written policy.
“Pregnant inmates are not any less deserving of proper medical care to ensure their own health and the health of their child,” said lead sponsor Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-15). “I am proud of my colleagues in the House for passing this bill and I urge the Senate to do the same this week.”
“This bill ensures that each corrections facility in the state provides a clear representation of the types of medical services pregnant inmates are entitled to,” said Senator Delores Kelley (D-10), who sponsored the Senate bill. “Inmates should never have to worry about substandard care that could deny them a safe and healthy pregnancy.”
Both bills were priorities for the Reproductive Justice Inside Coalition, whose members 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; 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, city holding centers, 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.