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Dismal Picture of Health Care for Pregnant Inmates

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In April of this year I posted two articles on the difficulties of obtaining an abortion if you are a woman prisoner. My information was taken from a Web posting by Diana Kasdan, in which she discussed a survey of incarcerated women, by Sufrin, Creinin, and Chang, as well as providing her own commentary. Kasdan is a Staff Attorney who works for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. Today I will be talking about the general health care needs of pregnant women in prisons, with more information on their access to abortions; the source is the same Kasdan article.

In her article, Kasdan reports that an investigative piece, which appeared in the Texas Observer, in late February, stated the following: "For pregnant women in immigration detention facilities, it is virtually impossible to obtain an abortion." Extensive interviews with researchers and advocates revealed that detainees who became pregnant due to the fact that they were raped while crossing the border, encountered huge obstacles when they went looking for information about abortions and services. The Information and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representative who was actually quoted in that newspaper's story said that of 1,000 pregnant detainees in 2008, not one of them had had a pregnancy terminated during the time they were in ICE custody.

Kasdan points out that the Supreme Court never decided that women lose their right to have an abortion while they are in prison, and prison authorities have to ensure that women have the proper access to abortion care. The ACLU lawyer emphasizes that by the same token, women prisoners who plan to give birth, have a constitutional right to medical care throughout their pregnancy, as well as childbirth, and recovery that is postpartum. "Unfortunately, too often authorities disregard the unique health needs of pregnant women and assume that they have discretion to permit or deny care as they see fit," says Kasdan.

The rights of pregnant inmates are not being met because they cannot fully access the services that they are entitled to.

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