Thursday, September 5, 2019
Aug. 29, 2019 (The Washington Post): 'Nobody cared': A woman gave birth alone in a jail cell after her cries for help were ignored, lawsuit says, by Allyson Chiu:
Diana Sanchez was booked into Denver County Jail just three weeks ahead of her due date in July 2018. Early in the morning on July 31, Sanchez's contractions began. Her water broke and labor progressed without any help from prison or medical personnel. Sanchez gave birth to a baby boy alone in her jail cell, on top of a single absorbent pad--the only item provided to her despite her persistent cries for help. Immediately after the birth of Sanchez's son, a man wearing surgical gloves entered her cell to apparently examine the baby; however it wasn't until over 30 minutes post-birth that Sanchez and her new baby were transferred to the hospital.
Sanchez's birth experience was captured in full on surveillance footage of her cell. In the footage, Sanchez is seen unfolding the square pad deputies provided her and placing it on her bed. The video also shows her labor in full, including her water breaking, her shouts for help, her frantic efforts to remove her pants and underwear as the baby was coming. In August, Sanchez told KDVR: "They put my son's life at risk. When I got to the hospital, they said I could have bled to death."
The U.S. has the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world across the board, but for women of color and incarcerated women, the rates rise significantly.
Sanchez has filed a lawsuit against the city and county of Denver, Denver Health Medical Center, and six individuals after the internal investigation found no wrongdoing. Mari Newman, Sanchez's attorney, says she hopes to "achieve some measure of accountability and to force wrongdoers to change their behavior.”
The suit mentions several past incidents in which inmates under the supervision of the city and county of Denver and Denver Health Medical Center personnel allegedly did not receive adequate care. One case, which was settled about 10 years ago, resulted in an agreement that jail staff are required to report medical emergencies up the chain of command and if no action is taken, to call 911 themselves, Newman said. Had that commitment been followed, Sanchez’s experience might have been avoided, she said.
A spokesperson with the Denver Sheriff Department asserted that deputies took appropriate action and "followed the relevant policies and procedures," adding that the Department has updated its policies to "ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital."
Thursday, October 11, 2018
The Atlantic (Oct. 11, 2018): When Abortion Is Illegal, Women Rarely Die. But They Still Suffer, by Olga Khazan:
On Thursday, The Atlantic published a piece surveying nations that maintain bans on abortion, in light of the belief that abortion is expected to become further restricted with Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
Khazan writes that legal experts believe the majority-conservative court likely won’t overturn Roe v. Wade, but rather will chip away at abortion rights by narrowing the circumstances in which a woman can obtain the procedure. Still, abortion rights advocates fear that increasing restrictions will force low-income women into desperate situations and increase the rate of self-managed abortion, in which interest has spiked in recent years as access to safe and legal abortion erodes in many states.
If other countries provide guidance, Khazan writes, "abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place." According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are similar to those in countries where it’s illegal, and in countries where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8% to 11% of all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 deaths each year.
But, Khazan observes, doctors have gotten better at controlling bleeding in recent decades, and there has also been a major revolution in how clandestine abortions are performed thanks to medication abortion (mifepristone and misoprostol).
Mifepristone and misoprostol have made Brazil's rate of treatment for severe complications from abortion decline by 76 percent since 1992. In Latin America overall, the rate of complications from abortions declined by one-third since 2005.
Meanwhile, in El Salvador abortion is illegal, but one in three pregnancies still ends in abortion. Many women there who want to abort their pregnancies, Khazan finds, obtain misoprostol on the streets.
"Those who have internet access and reading skills can look up information about how to take it properly."
Federal prosecutors in El Salvador are known to visit hospitals and encourage doctors to report to authorities any women who are suspected of self-inducing their abortions. But because federal prosecutors are only visiting public hospitals and not private hospitals, poor women are much more likely to be reported for their illegal abortions than rich women.
In Brazil, where abortion is also illegal, about 250,000 women are hospitalized from complications from abortions, and about 200 women a year die from the complications. About 300 abortion-related criminal cases were registered against Brazilian women in 2017.
In Ireland prior to the repeal of its criminal abortion ban, women would travel to England to get the procedure—often using a fake English address so they could get the procedure for free under the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Others, Khazan writes, "would order abortion pills from Women on Web, a Canada-based service that ships the pills to women in countries where abortion is illegal."
Whether a self-induced abortion is dangerous likely depends on where a woman gets her pills and what kind of information is available to assist her. Irish women’s outcomes were better than the Brazilian women’s possibly because they had access to regulated services like Women on Web. Brazilian customs officials, meanwhile, confiscate shipments of medication abortion into the country, forcing women to turn to the black market.
The American market for abortion drugs will boom under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, says Michelle Oberman, a Santa Clara University law professor, but it will also become more difficult to penalize abortion providers for illegal abortions, since with medication abortion there is no doctor, only the woman. In that case, Oberman says, “everything I saw [in Ireland] will happen here”: the hospital reports, the prosecutions, the jail sentences.
Many states have already prosecuted women for doing drugs while pregnant or for otherwise allegedly harming their fetuses. Overwhelmingly, those punished tend to be poor women and women of color.
Monday, June 18, 2018
New York Times (Jun. 17, 2018): Leading Republicans Join Democrats in Pushing Trump to Halt Family Separations, by Peter Baker:
On Sunday, leading figures of both parties demanded that President Trump halt his administration’s practice of separating children from their parents when apprehended at the border, as the issue further polarized the already divisive immigration debate in Washington.
Republican lawmakers, the former first lady Laura Bush, a conservative newspaper and a onetime adviser to Mr. Trump joined Democrats in condemning family separations that have removed nearly 2,000 children from their parents in just six weeks. The administration argued that it was just enforcing the law, a false assertion that Mr. Trump has made repeatedly.
Even Melania Trump weighed in, saying she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together.” Mrs. Trump “believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with a heart,” the first lady’s office said in a statement.
The issue took on special resonance on Father’s Day as Democratic lawmakers visited detention facilities in Texas and New Jersey to protest the separations and the House prepared to take up immigration legislation this week. Pictures of children warehoused without their parents in facilities, including a converted Walmart store, have inflamed passions and put the administration on defense.
By laying responsibility for the situation on “both sides,” Mrs. Trump effectively echoed her husband’s assertion that it was the result of a law written by Democrats. In fact, the administration announced a “zero tolerance” approach this spring, leading to the separations.
Laura Bush, the last Republican first lady, spoke out forcefully against the practice on Sunday in a rare foray into domestic politics, comparing it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “I live in a border state,” she wrote in a guest column in The Washington Post. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, deplored separations on Sunday, except in cases where there is evidence of abuse or another good reason. “What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that, if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “That is traumatizing to the children, who are innocent victims. And it is contrary to our values in this country.”
Contrary to the president’s public statements, no law requires families to be separated at the border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” announcement this spring that the government will prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals set up a situation in which children are removed when their parents are taken into federal custody.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, rejected responsibility for the separations in a series of tweets on Sunday. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” she wrote. “Period.”
But there have been reports of people arriving at the ports of entry asking for asylum and being taken into custody, and some of the designated ports are not accepting asylum claims. In those cases, migrants sometimes cross wherever they can and, because it is not an official border station, are detained even though they are making a claim of asylum. Many would-be asylum applicants do not know where official ports of entry are.
Democrats are trying to focus attention on the separation policy as an example of what they call Mr. Trump’s extremist approach to immigration. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has collected 43 Democratic sponsors for legislation to limit family separations.
Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland led a group of Democratic lawmakers to a detention facility in Brownsville, Tex., on Sunday but were not allowed to talk with children held there. Seven House Democrats visited a detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J. and said they were blocked for nearly two hours before being allowed to see parents separated from their children.
Anthony Scaramucci, who served briefly as White House communications director last year, said separating children from their families is not “the Christian way” or “the American way,” and made clear he thinks Mr. Trump can end it on his own. “The President can reverse it and I hope he does,” he wrote on Twitter.
The conservative editorial page of The New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, agreed on Sunday. “It’s not just that this looks terrible in the eyes of the world,” it wrote. “It is terrible.”
Mr. Trump has said in recent days that Democrats should agree to his panoply of immigration measures, including full financing for a border wall and revamping the system of legal entry to the country, in effect making clear that any legislation addressing family separation must also include his priorities.
A top adviser to Mr. Trump said on Sunday that the president was not using the family separation as leverage to force Democrats to come to the table on other policy disputes, rebutting an unnamed White House official quoted by The Washington Post.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
The Washington Post (Oct. 12, 2017): Judge OK denying parole to pregnant addict for baby's sake, by Associated Press:
A Pennsylvania judge last year denied a 28-year-old pregnant woman parole even after she had served her minimum jail sentence.
Britnee Becker was arrested on a theft case probation violation and appealed the judge's decision. The higher court, though, said the judge was justified in denying Becker parole in order to protect her unborn child from Becker's drug use.
The appeals court says the judge was right to consider Becker’s unborn child, especially since Becker acknowledged using heroin when she was five months pregnant. She was arrested for the violation in May 2016.
The court says that denying Becker parole “ensured Becker could not use heroin and harm her unborn child.”
Friday, September 22, 2017
Huffington Post (Sept. 17, 2017): Breastfeeding Behind Bars: Do All Moms Deserve the Right?, by Kimberly Seals Allers
33-year-old Monique Hidalgo is mom to a 5-week old baby. Her child's father brings their infant to visit her on the weekends, as Hidalgo is also an inmate at a New Mexican state prison. Due to her incarceration, Hidalgo was refused contact with her newborn when she wanted to breastfeed her. She was also denied access to a breast pump that would've allowed her to provide milk for her baby from behind bars.
Last month, though, a Sante Fe judge ruled that the Corrections Department policy denying incarcerated mothers their right to breastfeed was unconstitutional. The judge ordered that Hidalgo be able to breastfeed her child during visits and also ordered that she receive access to an electric pump.
"While there have been many cases, both in federal and state court, affirming a woman’s right to breastfeed in a public place or at work, incarcerated women have largely been left out of this conversation,” said Amber Fayerberg, Ms. Hidalgo’s lead counsel, at Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward, whose firm is working the case pro-bono. “This case acknowledges that incarcerated women are not just “inmates,” but women and, often, mothers,” Fayerberg said in an email interview.
Prisons are generally punitive over rehabilitative when it comes to incarcerated parents dealing with incarceration. Society rarely accounts for the circumstances that led to a parent's imprisonment, including poverty and racism. An incarcerated mother is deemed a "bad mom" in order to justify stripping her of the opportunity to maintain important, biological connections with her child like breastfeeding.
Women's advocates highlight that, in an effort to punish mothers, policies like those that forbid breastfeeding are actually punishing the infants as well, depriving them not only of their mother, but also of the benefits associated with breastfeeding. Experts also find that enabling the mother-baby connection may be a beneficial way to keep a mother connected to her family and community, therefore increasing her chances of successful re-integration and discouraging recidivism.
Reproductive justice is scarcely considered with incarcerated women in mind, however, Democratic senators have recently introduced positive legislation. Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) introduced The Dignity for Incarcerated Women's Act. The bill would prohibit federal prisons from shackling pregnant women or placing them in solitary confinement, require federal prisons to provide free tampons and pads for women, and would extend visiting hours for inmates and their children.
Even as we make progress, though, the question remains: which aspects of the mother-child connection are a right versus a privilege? When the early months of an infant's life are so critical to future development, shouldn't minimizing the separation of incarcerated mothers and their children be a societal goal rather than a constitutional battle?
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Jezebel (May 17, 2016): Report Finds Pregnant Massachusetts Inmates Are Still Being Illegally Shackled, by Anna Merlan:
In 2014, Massachusetts passed legislation prohibiting the shackling of pregnant inmates. The law prohibits shackling women when they are in labor, in their second or third trimester of pregnancy and immediately post-delivery. Despite the law a recent report found that many Massachusetts counties fail to enforce law and even have written policies that explicitly violate it.
The report published by Prisoners' Legal Services and the Prison Birth Project
charges that neither the state Department of Corrections nor a single county sheriff’s office is fully implementing the anti-shackling law, and that knowledge of what the law even entails “varies not just from one prison or jail to another, but among corrections personnel who work for the same prison or jail.”
The report documents instances of shackling during labor and in hospital beds post-delivery. The report also found violations of the law's requirement that pregnant women be transported in vehicles with seatbelts to prevent the danger caused by sliding around in van seats or benches while handcuffed.
Massachusetts is one of 22 states that have anti-shackling laws. Its experience illustrates the need for monitoring and implementation of these laws.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Vox: An Indiana woman is facing 20 years in prison for "feticide", by Christophe Haubursin:
Indiana did something unprecedented this week: it sentenced a woman to a 20-year prison sentence for violating a decades-old feticide law.
Purvi Patel's conviction, announced on Monday, is the first American case in which a court has found a pregnant woman guilty of violating a fetal homicide law. . . .
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Dorothy E. Roberts (University of Pennsylvania Law School) has posted Prison, Foster Care, and the Systemic Punishment of Black Mothers on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article is part of a UCLA Law Review symposium, “Overpoliced and Underprotected: Women, Race, and Criminalization.” It analyzes how the U.S. prison and foster care systems work together to punish black mothers in a way that helps to preserve race, gender, and class inequalities in a neoliberal age. The intersection of these systems is only one example of many forms of overpolicing that overlap and converge in the lives of poor women of color. I examine the statistical overlap between the prison and foster care populations, the simultaneous explosion of both systems in recent decades, the injuries that each system inflicts on black communities, and the way in which their intersection in the lives of black mothers helps to make social inequities seem natural. I hope to elucidate how state mechanisms of surveillance and punishment function jointly to penalize the most marginalized women in our society while blaming them for their own disadvantaged positions.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The New York Times: Ruling Soon on Isolation of Inmates With H.I.V., by Robbie Brown:
ATLANTA — In his first week in prison in Alabama, Albert Knox, a former pimp convicted of cocaine possession, tested positive for H.I.V.
Afterward, he says, guards called out “dead man walking” as he passed through the halls. He was banned from eating in the cafeteria, working around food or visiting with classmates in his substance-abuse program. . . .
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
A woman who aborted her own baby in the final phase of her pregnancy has been jailed for eight years.
Sarah Louise Catt, 35, of Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, took a drug when she was full term, 39 weeks pregnant, to cause an early delivery. . . .
Friday, July 13, 2012
The Associated Press reports that Bei Bei Shuai, the Chinese immigrant who was prosecuted in the U.S. for trying to commit suicide while pregnant, has rejected a plea deal pursuant to which prosecutors would have dropped the murder charge. The AP story is available here.
Read more about the case via National Advocates for Pregnant Women here.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
ThinkProgress: Florida Rape Victim Sues County Jail After Being Denied Emergency Contraception, by Annie-Rose Strasser:
A Florida rape victim is suing her county jail and its medical contractor after one employee allegedly refused to give her emergency contraception, citing religious reasons.
After the woman — identified as R.W. — was raped, she went to the jail to identify her assailant. While there, the victim was placed under arrest for an outstanding warrant. It was during this arrest that the incident occurred. . . .
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Bei Bei Shuai Released from Jail; Still Faces Trial for Baby's Death Following Her Suicide Attempt While Pregnant
WISHTV: Bei Bei Shuai 'happy' for release from jail, by AJ Colley:
The woman accused of killing her baby by ingesting rat poison while pregnant left the Marion County Jail on Tuesday with a smile.
Bei Bei Shuai is facing murder and feticide charges in connection with the incident. She gave birth to the baby, but the child later died. . . .
Monday, May 14, 2012
AlterNet: Birthing Behind Bars: Fighting for Reproductive Justice for Women in Prison, by Tina Reynolds & Victoria Law:
"I never thought of advocating outside of prison. I just wanted to have some semblance of a normal life once I was released," stated Tina Reynolds, a mother and formerly incarcerated woman. Then she gave birth to her son while in prison for a parole violation:
"When I went into labor, my water broke. The van came to pick me up, I was shackled. Once I was in the van, I was handcuffed. I was taken to the hospital. The handcuffs were taken off, but the shackles weren’t. I walked to the wheelchair that they brought over to me and I sat in the wheelchair with shackles on me. They re-handcuffed me once I was in the wheelchair and took me up to the floor where women had their children.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
MADRID — Spain's conservative government plans to tighten the country's abortion law to oblige girls aged 16 and 17 seeking the procedure to have their parents' consent, its justice minister said Wednesday.
Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said he was drawing up a bill to change the former Socialist government's 2010 law which fully legalised abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. . . .
Thursday, July 7, 2011
KATU News: Inmate must be stable before judge decides abortion request, by Patrick Preston:
MCMINNVILLE, Ore. - A pregnant Portland woman jailed in Yamhill County who requested to be temporarily let out of jail to get an abortion is a step closer to getting the procedure.
But on Wednesday, Yamhill County Circuit Court Judge John Collins ordered that Bridget Burkholder, 23, be stabilized at an intensive care facility before he decides whether she can get the abortion.
Burkholder is being held in the Yamhill County Jail while awaiting trial for attempted arson, criminal mischief and three lesser charges. Her bail was set at $65,000, requiring a $6,500 payment for release.
She will now be evaluated by mental health professionals to determine if she’s competent to make the decision to have the abortion. . . .
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
guardian.co.uk: Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges, by Ed Pilkington:
Women's rights campaigners see the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion
Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.
Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death – they charged her with the "depraved-heart murder" of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
Gibbs is the first woman in Mississippi to be charged with murder relating to the loss of her unborn baby. But her case is by no means isolated. Across the US more and more prosecutions are being brought that seek to turn pregnant women into criminals. . . .
H/T: Linda Hutjens
Monday, May 2, 2011
The Tennessean: Shackled mom wins case, by Chris Echegaray:
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Nashville mother who triggered a national outcry after she was shackled during labor and after giving birth while in custody of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
U.S District Court Judge William Haynes Jr. will set a hearing for damages against Metro government and the sheriff’s office in the Juana Villegas case, which grew out of a July 3, 2008, traffic stop in Berry Hill. . . .
Saturday, April 23, 2011
The Nation: Policing Pregnancy, by Michelle Goldberg:
Utah prosecutors and conservative politicians are determined to lock up the young woman known in court filings as J.M.S. for the crime of trying to end her pregnancy. Her grim journey through the legal system began in 2009, when she was 17 and pregnant by a convicted felon named Brandon Gale, who is currently facing charges of using her and another underage girl to make pornography. J.M.S. lived in a house without electricity or running water in a remote part of Utah. Even if she could have obtained the required parental consent and scraped together money for an abortion and a couple of nights in a hotel to comply with Utah’s twenty-four-hour waiting period, simply getting to the nearest clinic posed an enormous challenge. Salt Lake City is more than a three-hour drive from her town, twice that in bad weather, when snow makes the mountain passes treacherous. There is no public transportation, and she didn’t have a driver’s license. . . .
In recent years, women in several states have faced arrest and imprisonment for the crime of ending their pregnancies, or merely attempting to do so. For decades now, feminists have warned about a post–Roe v. Wade world in which women are locked up for having abortions. Antiabortion activists dismiss such fears as propaganda. . . .
Thursday, April 14, 2011
The Nation: Will the Justice Department Stand Up for Women Raped in Prison?, by Rachel Roth:
Eight years ago, Congress acknowledged the brutal fact of systemic sexual assault behind bars by unanimously passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The Justice Department is now poised to issue final rules to implement the law, which makes federal funding to prisons and jails contingent on improved staff training, availability of medical and psychological services for people who suffer sexual assault, investigations and publicly available data about reported assaults.
But because violence is endemic to imprisonment, some level of sexual violence will persist. And for women, one consequence of sexual violence is pregnancy, especially for those who are forced to endure repeated rapes. More than 200,000 women are imprisoned right now, and many more pass through prisons and jails over the course of a year—each one vulnerable to sexual assault, and to pregnancy resulting from it. Despite the years of hearings, testimony and research, the Justice Department’s PREA rules still fail to protect the reproductive rights and health of women in this situation. . . .