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Pregnancy in Prison

Imagine you’re a week away from giving birth. You’re filled with excitement and giddy anticipation for what’s to come, eager to meet your child. Now, imagine that, but within the cold, austere and isolating confines of a prison compound. While each and every woman’s pregnancy is uniquely theirs, for women in prison it’s an entirely novel experience that few can parallel.

In the US, it is estimated that there are 58,000 pregnant women admitted into incarceration every year. As crime rates and pregnancies rise throughout the world, this figure is only set to grow exponentially. Prisons, jails, penitentiaries, at their basis serve to punish criminals of misdeeds and thus lend to being inherently hostile and forbidding in nature. For any incarcerated individual, prisons are undoubtedly bleak and un-accommodating, yet for pregnant ones this is amplified tenfold. By being pregnant, not only are your needs as an individual neglected, but those of your unborn child left unanswered too. Recent incidents have shown that imprisoned pregnant women are denied any semblance of humanity, of empathy, and of compassion.

For instance, this year a woman in Maryland was forced to go through labour entirely alone and unassisted in her jail cell after her cries for help went ignored by prison nurses. The woman was left to bear her contractions and birth the baby alone, even after she pushed the baby’s amniotic sac through the cell door’s gap to prove to nurses that she was in fact labouring. The baby survived, but developed a staph infection due to the squalid, unsanitary state of the jail cell. Yet even if the mother is brought to a hospital for labour, her health at the hands of authority isn’t guaranteed. In Orange County a woman’s water broke, yet when being brought to the hospital in a patrol car Sheriff Dputies stopped at Starbucks for a coffee, resulting in the mother suffering a miscarriage.

Ultimately, pregnancy is a hugely significant milestone in any person’s life and should be treated as such, for it forms the basis of all humankind. It doesn’t take much to support someone going through an experience as taxing and exhausting as labour, does it?

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