New bipartisan Rep. Love Bill: Protecting pregnant women in custody

Rep. Mia Love joins Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) in introducing bipartisan legislation to provide a national standard of care to address pregnancy-related needs of incarcerated women during pregnancy, labor, delivery and post-partum periods.

Rep. Love said:  “As a mother of three children and strong supporter of criminal justice reform, I am proud to reach across the aisle with my friend Rep. Bass to introduce a bill that addresses the unique needs of incarcerated women and their children. Our legislation will help prevent injury, enhance well-being, and establish much-needed standards of care. It reflects a desire to uphold the law while also supporting humanity. I am grateful for the strong bipartisan support we’ve received from so many respected colleagues, and look forward to advancing this important measure.”

The Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act of 2018will address the care of pregnant women in all federal prisons and require the Department of Justice to collect data on the mental and physical health of pregnant women in custody.   Rep. Love joins Representatives Karen Bass, (D) California, and Catherine Clark (D) Massachusetts in introducing the bill, which is cosponsored by a bipartisan majority of women in the House.

“We must be sure that we are mindful and responsible for the health and wellness of pregnant women in prison, Rep. Bass said. “That means an appropriate diet, access to appropriate medical assistance, and it certainly means stopping the shackling of pregnant inmates.  I hope that we can move this conversation forward in a bipartisan manner and look forward to participating in the continuing conversation about ways to reform our criminal justice system.”

The number of incarcerated women and girls has grown by more than 800% in the past 30 years, making clear the need for justice systems that respond to the needs of women and girls.  As the rate of incarceration for pregnant women grows, there continues to be a disconnect between the larger criminal justice discussion and the importance of safety, adequate services and support to address women’s needs. 

Pamela Winn, Founder of RESTORE HER : “When I was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison I was six weeks pregnant at the time of my arrest. When I was released, I came home without my baby. I had miscarried. I tripped while shackled and did not receive medical care. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the life that could have been. A twist of fate did not take my child. A blatant disregard for my humanity stole the life that was growing inside of me. I am especially pleased to see data collection included in this bill – it is scary and appalling to me that we do not know how many other women experienced what I did or were even exposed to the risk. We must do all that we can to make sure tragedies like mine do not happen again. The Pregnant Women in Custody Act would restrict shackling of pregnant women and go to great lengths to ensure safety and humane care of incarcerated women and protect their babies.”  

Heather Rice-Minus, vice president of government affairs for Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest Christian non-profit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families: “Every woman is made in the image of God, including those behind bars. The unborn children of incarcerated women are of no less value than any other child and deserving of the same protection and care. We commend Representatives Mia Love and Karen Bass for introducing the Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act and urge all members of Congress to join them in ensuring human dignity is safeguarded inside the prison walls.”

Kaitlin Owens, Policy Analyst at the American Conservative Union Foundation:  “It’s unfortunate to think that a bill has to be put in place, saying “treat human beings as human beings”, however, this is a great first step in preserving human dignity of both the mother and their newborn behind bars.

Rebecca Hagelin, Prison Reform Advocate & Columnist at The Washington Times: “The Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women Act ensures that as we punish female offenders, we are doing so in a manner that is both effective and humane.  America is a land that cherishes the dignity of children, and it’s time that we protect the innocent even as we hold their mothers accountable for breaking the law.