Pregnant While Incarcerated

In California, we recently celebrated a victory for peope who are incarcareted while pregnant, when Governor Brown signed AB 2530, a bill that bans the worst forms of shackling of pregnant women.  You can read more about the bill and the work needed to implement it at the Strong Families blog.

But the fight for safe and healthy pregnancy in prisons and jails is far from over.  In Canada, a group called the Mother and Baby Coalition for Justice has been galvanized to action by the recent case of Julia Bilotta, who gave birth unattended in harsh conditions in an Ottawa jail cell.

Over the weekend we received a call for stories from national organization called Birthing Behind Bars. I’m copying and pasting their email here:  

Anyone who works with incarcerated or formerly-incarcerated women who were pregnant or gave birth behind bars: Please spread the word about this project (below) that will give them a chance to have their stories documented! Note that these stories will be used for future policy work to directly intervene in the systems that impact reproductive justice in prison.  Feel free to forward to anyone you think would be interested! 

As part of the campaign, we’re reaching out to women who have been pregnant while behind bars (jails, prisons, immigrant detention) and asking them to share their experiences of pregnancy while locked up. They need not have given birth while behind bars…we totally understand that safe and healthy pregnancies is not simply about the birth experience.

Anyhow…I was wondering if you’d be able to spread the word about our campaign to folks you know who work with women who may have been incarcerated while pregnant. As I’m sure you know, there’s a HUGE overlap between women who have been assaulted/abused and/or are seeking social work services and women who have experienced incarceration (either for long periods of time or short periods of time). 

I’m also down for meeting with people and walking them through how to share their story in case it seems like a daunting task. 

We’re hoping to use these stories to illustrate WHAT reproductive justice (or injustice) looks like in prisons and what the “collateral consequences” are of increasingly locking people up (and, in this case, locking up pregnant people). 

Were you pregnant in jail or prison? If so, we want to hear your story!!
WORTH (Women on the Rise Telling HerStory) is collecting the stories and experiences of women who have experienced pregnancy while behind bars. WORTH has created a website to share these video, audio and written accounts as well as a phone hotline where women can call to share their own stories. These stories can be used to help push a state-by-state analysis of the intersections of reproductive justice and incarceration. 

WORTH is an association of currently and formerly incarcerated women who have been empowered by our own experiences. Through leadership development, organizing, mentoring, mutual support and telling our stories, WORTH transforms the lives of women affected by incarceration and changes public perception and policies. Many of us have experienced pregnancy and childbirth behind bars. Drawing on our own experiences and strengths, we’ve successfully changed the laws of New York State to prohibit the shackling of incarcerated women during labor and delivery. Now we are moving this campaign to the national level to fight for reproductive justice for all women behind bars.
 What is your birthing behind bars story? 
Call our toll-free, 24/7, storyline: 877-518-0606Record your answer and we’ll post it on our site!
Tell us about your experiences with:
·Pregnancy before prison/learning about pregnancy while in prison
·Medical care in prison
·The birth experience
·Special needs/medical issues/ ICU after birth
·The prison nursery experience
·Placing child with family members or friends to avoid foster care
·Foster care
·Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)
For more information on Birthing Behind Bars, contact:
Tina Reynolds
Vikki Law




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