Congressmember Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, along with Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA), Vice-Chair of the Democratic Caucus, Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), introduced the Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act to provide a national standard of care to address pregnancy-related needs of incarcerated women during pregnancy, labor, delivery and post-partum periods.
“Our prison system was not created with women in mind and as a result continually fails to provide basic necessities to tens of thousands of individuals who are incarcerated every single day,” said Congressmember Bass. “Especially amid a pandemic, it is incumbent upon Congress to ensure that we are not inadvertently matching petty crimes with death sentences. I’m proud to be introducing this bipartisan bill to make sure that we are mindful and responsible for the health and wellness of pregnant women in prison. That means an appropriate diet, it means access to appropriate medical assistance, and it certainly means stopping the shackling of pregnant inmates. Although it’s beyond the scope of this bill, it is important that we not normalize the incarceration of pregnant women. In fact, we should examine whether incarcerating pregnant women at all is the best way to address public safety.”
“I’m proud to join Reps. Bass, Lesko, and Clark in introducing this bipartisan legislation to protect the health and wellness of pregnant and postpartum women in prison,” said Congressman Reschenthaler. “By providing incarcerated women with access to pregnancy-related health care and services, we can ensure better outcomes for both mothers and babies. I look forward to advancing the Pregnant Women in Custody Act and urge my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation.”
“Shackling women during childbirth is cruel, unnecessary, and puts both the mom and baby in harm’s way,” said Congresswoman Clark. “With this legislation, we are putting an end to this inhumane practice while investing resources into the mental and physical health of incarcerated women and ensuring that we have the data to provide them necessary care and treatment. This bill is a step forward as we look to reform our criminal justice system and end abusive practices that are disproportionately levied against Americans of color.”
“I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in introducing this important legislation to protect women and babies in America’s prisons,” said Congresswoman Lesko. “It is important that we protect life and provide a safe environment for the rising number of incarcerated expectant mothers and their babies. With its data collection, health care standards, and training, I’m hopeful this bill will improve conditions for expectant mothers.”