WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced legislation aimed at addressing the maternal health crisis among incarcerated people. The Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act would create grant and model programs to better care for pregnant people who are incarcerated, commission a study on the maternal health crisis within our prison system, and end the practice of shackling pregnant people. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) introduced the House companion to this bill earlier this month.

In the past three decades, the number of incarcerated women in the United States has drastically increased by 742 percent, with a majority of them being in childbearing years. Additionally, according to recent studies,incarcerated pregnant people have a higher likelihood than non-incarcerated pregnant people of experiencing poverty, suffering from a substance use disorder, and other risk factors that can lead to adverse maternal health outcomes.

“As the rest of the world works to improve maternal health outcomes, skyrocketing maternal mortality and morbidity rates here in the United States, and more specifically within our prison system, are precipitating a public health crisis,” said Senator Booker. “We cannot continue to profess to be the land of liberty and justice for all and ignore the maternal health crisis that is disproportionately putting mothers of color and incarcerated people at risk. The Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act will work to address the maternal health crisis in our prisons and ensure all mothers are provided with the best care during and after their pregnancy.” 

“Incarcerated mothers face heightened risk for maternal mortality and other complications, with incarcerated Black women facing particular risks,” said Senator Durbin. “I am proud to support the Justice forIncarcerated Moms Act in order to establish programs for pregnant and postpartum moms who are incarcerated. With this bill, we can ensure these moms get the care they need to have healthy and safe pregnancies and deliveries.”

“Our incarceration system is ill-equipped to handle the growing numbers of mothers and pregnant women entering the nation’s jails and prisons. Unfortunately, this failure disproportionately impacts Black women, who are imprisoned at twice the rate of white women and who are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes as white women,” said Senator Hirono. “The Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act introduces common sense reforms—such as creating maternal health programs and strengthening visitation policies—to protect the health and dignity of incarcerated women.”

 

“A safe pregnancy should be a right not a privilege, and every person should be able to experience their pregnancy without worrying if they will survive delivery or make it to their child’s first birthday—including women behind the wall,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “The Justice forIncarcerated Moms Act would center the dignity of pregnant people behind the wall by creating systems to protect the health and dignity of incarcerated people and enlist them as partners in our fight for justice and equity. I am grateful for the partnership of Senators Booker, Durbin and Hirono, and look forward to continuing our work to end the maternal mortality crisis once and for all.”

 

Specifically, the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act would: 

  1. Incentivize state and local prisons to prohibit the practice of shackling pregnant people.  

 

  1. Provide funding to establish programs that help to better assist pregnant and postpartum people in federal, state, and local prisons and jails. This would include access to doulas and other perinatal health workers, counseling, maternal-infant bonding, reentry assistance, and programs that prevent the incarceration of pregnant and postpartum people.

 

  1. Study maternal mortality and morbidity within our prison system and the impact of racial and ethnic disparities.

 

  1. Study how terminating Medicaid coverage will negatively impact the health of incarcerated pregnant people and mothers. 

 

The Justice for Incarcerated Mothers is 1 of 12 individual bills that are a part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, recently introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) -- along with Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. The legislation would help save moms’ lives, end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes, and achieve maternal health justice for Black women and all women and birthing people of color.  

Full text of the legislation can be found here

 

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