You’re Pregnant in Prison. What Are Your Rights to Medical Care, Your Child, Abortion, and Shackles?
Prisons do not have the same health care most people have outside jail. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get proper treatment. There are constitutional rights, and they protect pregnant individuals in jail. Knowing what rights you have can help you get the care you need when you need it.
Do pregnant incarcerated individuals have special rights before giving birth?
Yes. You do have some special rights while pregnant. For one, staff cannot use certain restraints. This is to protect you and the baby. Prison staff can use restraints to stop individuals from hurting themselves or others. If a pregnant incarcerated individual is a threat, staff must control the threat first. Staff cannot use control belts at any time if you are pregnant.
The rights of pregnant people in prison also include proper health care for you and the baby. This means scheduled trips to a doctor. They will check you and the baby to make sure you are both healthy. This does not always include ultrasounds. They are not medically necessary. Staff may choose to use one if they see signs of distress or to measure growth.
The Bureau of Prisons says the constitutional rights of pregnant individuals includes classes. These classes help with family planning, child care and abortion. Not all states have the same rules, though. Some offer HIV testing and doctor visits before birth. Others do not. Not all states give access to abortion in prison, either.
Can pregnant individuals stay with their babies in prison?
It depends. Not all states will let individuals in prison raise babies behind bars. But some will. BOP has two programs that help people care for their kids in jail.
The Mothers and Infants Together program lets moms stay with newborns. You can only stay for three months after birth, though. They must return to finish the sentence.
The Residential Parenting Program lets some stay with babies until release. This program is for individuals with 30 months or fewer left on their sentences. They also do not accept maximum security incarcerated individuals. If they accept you, you can give birth and stay with your baby until your release.
Not all states have programs like this. You don’t have rights to these programs. This means that those in state prison have to ask which programs exist.
Are there other rights that pregnant individuals don’t have in prison?
Yes. No prison will pay for abortion. You can still get one in some states. The BOP will also let those in federal prisons get one. Incarcerated individuals can take classes to learn about abortion. But if you decide to get one, you will have to pay for it yourself.
If you don’t want to keep custody of your baby, you may get help with adoption. In most cases, they will need the father to agree. Family may also ask to adopt the baby. But for individuals with long sentences or who do not want the baby, you still have options.
Staff members should not use certain restraints with pregnant individuals in prison. They have to give you proper care before and after birth. Some prisons will let you stay with your baby, but not all. Know the rules for your state to make sure you get the care you need.