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Written by Katherine McMahon
The United States has incomparable rates of incarceration, and in 2015 there were 111,495 women in state and federal prisons. It is estimated that in 2005, 80% of incarcerated women were already mothers of young children. Many of the women who are incarcerated are young, have committed non-violent crimes and are first time offenders. There are a variety of factors that contribute to incarceration (race, economic injustice, unequal access to education and employment). Women can enter jail under a variety of circumstances, sometimes already mothers, often already pregnant, and sometimes unknowing of the fact that they are pregnant. In 2006 nearly 50% of all pregnancies were unplanned in the United States. Sometimes when a woman enters a correctional institution she is made aware of her pregnancy for the first time. The policy is for these women to be informed and have the full range of legally available options for continuing or terminating the pregnancy. Incarcerated women should have access to the same medical attention that a woman who is not incarcerated would have full access to.
However, this medical care for incarcerated women is circumstantial and can vary from state to state and even jail to jail. There are very few specifics provided for the prison system to follow under the law, leaving each system to make their own rules and regulations over what medical needs they will cover. Stories of inadequate care abound. Incarcerated women who have asked their guards for medical attention because they believe they are in labor have experienced unnecessary delays. Women give birth in their cells with no medical staff to assist in cases of emergencies with the mother or the child, and even when they have access to medical attention they are often still shackled.
The shackling of women during labor and delivery presents a significant danger to the safety and wellbeing of women and babies. Few states have laws banning the use of shackles during pregnancy, most states ignore the medical advice showing that shackles are unnecessary during labor. Obstetricians report being unable to find the guard to unlock shackles when an emergency cesarean section is needed, delaying emergency care. Women have filed complaints and publicized their stories about their long term health issues and injuries from being shackled during and after labor. Not to mention that this practice of shackling women while pregnant or in labor is demeaning and humiliating.
Pregnant women are entitled to proper medical care by competent medical professionals. Criminal justice reform is needed in order to have stronger federal regulations over what medical care is provided to incarcerated women and how it is provided. Incarcerated women need advocates who are not behind bars, nurses and doctors prepared to fight for proper medical care and criminal justice reform. For more information about pregnant women behind bars check out some of these resources:
Katherine McMahon is a third-year student at the University of Oregon in the School of Journalism and Communications. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Katherine has been involved in social justice since middle school. After working with organizations such as Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood, Katherine plans to pursue a career in journalistic social justice.
Graphic courtesy of Bitch Media.
This blog post was written by Vanessa Shields, who is a member of the Gulf Coast chapter of NSSRH.
I have worked with New Orleans Abortion Fund as an intake volunteer and clinic escort since 2014. The mission of the abortion fund is simple, we provide funding for abortions. Many of us are also clinic escorts at our local abortion clinic where we ensure people visiting the clinic are able to enter the health care facility free from harassment. As a nurse, this volunteer work has enhanced my understanding of the struggles and barriers faced by members of my community to manage family planning and fertility, as well as the health and well-being of their families. My experiences working with the abortion fund have also made me more cognizant of state legislation around restricting access to reproductive health care, much of it scientifically inaccurate and lacking evidenced-based medical input. This is particularly relevant in the Deep South, where legislative efforts to chip away Roe v. Wade are a persistent threat. I am undoubtedly a better patient advocate, and more motivated social justice activist, because of my work with the abortion fund.
I was honored to be published, in the national LGBT publication, The Advocate, last month, on why supporting abortion access is part of my Pride month. Pride, for me, means being an ally for people who have had abortions — because Pride is about celebrating all the ways we live, love, and build our chosen families. Read The Advocate Article!
Vanessa lives in New Orleans, LA with her partner, two perpetually sleepy rescue dogs, and a sassy cat. She graduated from the accelerated BSN at Louisiana State University in 2017 and has a MA in International Politics from the University of Bradford, UK. Vanessa is a nurse for people living with HIV in New Orleans.
Over the past couple of years, NSSRH has been committed to expanding our scope of work beyond “choice”. While abortion care will always remain at the core of the work we do, we are actively moving toward embracing and supporting the Reproductive Justice framework. We have put out an organizational intention statement, updated our mission and vision, and went through a formal name change process. Most recently we created a position statement and core messaging that incorporates who we are, what we do, and why we are needed. As always, we welcome your feedback and thank you for your continued support.
NSSRH is a national grassroots organization dedicated to providing nursing students with the education, tools, and resources necessary to become social change agents within the healthcare system as it relates to sexual and reproductive justice.
Catalyst for social change, advancing holistic health with compassion, dignity and justice. For nursing students, faculty, alumni and allies, NSSRH is a recognized leader in advancing holistic, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH), including abortion, with compassion, dignity and justice. For over a decade, NSSRH has cultivated a bold and growing national network of grassroots nursing student activists to ensure the full spectrum of SRH education is integrated in nursing school curricula. NSSRH provides nursing students with the education, training and tools so they can make a difference in their patients’ daily lives, especially among the most marginalized and underserved communities.
WHO WE ARE
WHAT WE DO
WHY WE’RE NEEDED/IMPACT
Thanks to ConwayStrategic for their partnership in messaging creation.
By Karmann Peters, NSSRH Executive Director
Last week the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a health insurance plan that has been called “cruel” and “out of touch”, not to mention they get lifelong health insurance as members of Congress – which means they are unfortunately making misinformed and cruel decisions for the rest of us.
Time.com reports that there are at least 50 Health Issues That Count as Pre-Existing Conditions, including pregnancy. And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that although rape and sexual assault may not be on the list of pre-existing conditions, some survivors “could face higher costs” as well.
Many in Congress, and America at large, say that there is no war on women, but the House plan seems to paint an entirely different picture for many Americans including women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and those on the margins who may have multiple “conditions”. At a time when many are unsure of whether or not they will be able to access (or afford) family planning clinics for birth control, abortion care, etc., let alone the potential increases of current/future health insurance costs, the level of insolence and aggression coming from the Republicans in the House is quite astounding (…they had a “party” in the Rose Garden after passing the bill through the House to celebrate their victory, this after some of the most cold-hearted members didn’t think the original bill was “cruel enough” to poor and struggling Americans). This is unacceptable.
Do the members of Congress forget that we pay their salary? That we vote them into office and we can vote them out? It seems that they are actually very aware, as many have been ghosting the members of their own communities who voted for them and have slipped out of town hall meetings in order to avoid addressing community concerns. It is up to every one of us to hold them accountable for their actions. We must continue to advocate for the expansion of health insurance coverage, we must speak out in support of our patients and our clinics, and we must stand up together to say ENOUGH!
Sponsored by: Women’s March Sister Marches
Wow. Can you believe it’s been over three weeks since we marched five million strong on Jan. 21st? We didn’t stop there, though. Hundreds of thousands of us have gathered at over 4,750 community meetings, or Huddles, across the world to strengthen our local networks and nail down a plan to win back the world we want.
All of us, together, have built the Women’s March into a powerful global movement. Now, it’s time for us to mobilize and demand that our elected officials Hear Our Voice.
As the third action in our 100 Days campaign, we’re going to collectively generate a wave of thousands of grassroots-led protests, actions, and meetings directly engaging members of Congress when they’re back home for the President’s Day Week.
On Wednesday, February 15th at 7PM ET, a Tele-Town Hall will be held. You’ll hear directly from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Leah Greenberg of Indivisible, leaders from United State of Women, and Women’s March co-chairs Bob Bland and Linda Sarsour, about how you can take local action to stand up and fight for equality, justice, and freedom.
Registration for participating in the Tele-Town Hall on February 15th is now closed. Check Back here for a livestream and recording of the call, and sign up to get involved with the Hear Our Voice Campaign.
Alexa and the rest of the Women’s March Network Support Team
Our grassroots army is over 5 million marchers strong. For me personally, knowing that we stand together has made me feel stronger, hopeful, and more energized. I hope that we won’t stop. We can’t stop.
On January 21, we launched the 10 actions in 100 days campaign. As a warmup, we sent thousands of postcards to our senators across the country. Now we have to build a network of activists that can handle everything that’s thrown at us — we’re in this for the long haul. So the next action is to get together with family, friends and neighbors in thousands of places around the world for a Huddle.
Get your friends, family and neighbors together and join or host a Huddle near you.
Huddles are meetings where we Marchers and others can get to know each other better, envision the country we want, and make plans on how to win it.
You don’t need to have ever done something like this before. We have a guide available and lots of resources to help you come up with an action plan.
Click here to find or host a Huddle near you!
Building this movement is going to take all of us, in our communities, banding together to build the world we want to see, and making sure the world hears our voice. Join us.
Yordanos and the Women’s March Team
10 Actions for the First 100 Days is a series of actions we’ll take together to build power and crystallize the Women’s March as a people-powered movement to be reckoned with. We’ll introduce a new action every 10 days, for the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Action 1 is to send postcards to our Senators, telling them what’s important to us and why. Click here to find out more, get your FREE postcards and find out how to write them with your friends, neighbors and fellow marchers!