Prisons Punish Parents By Stealing Their Reproductive Freedom Behind Bars

pregnant black woman in black and white tracksuit
Zain Murdock
December 19, 2021

From enslavers forcing Black families to reproduce to forced sterilization of Black women in the 1900s, the stolen right to reproductive choice has been a hallmark of U.S. history. 

But today, reproductive “freedom” still doesn’t exist – especially not for the 58,000 people incarcerated while pregnant a year.

Hundreds have entered the prison system with charges like murder and manslaughter for suffering miscarriages out of their control! Others, forced to give birth while incarcerated, received drastically insufficient healthcare, leading to their newborn child’s death. 

But the torture doesn’t stop there.

Among 22 state prison systems in a recent study, 27% only allowed PERMANENT contraception, meaning someone has to choose to have a child in jail – or NEVER have a child ever again. Some prisons allow abortions, but 68% require incarcerated pregnant people to pay for it themselves! 

But how common are abortions in prison anyway?

The U.S. abortion rate is 18.4%. In jails that allow it, it’s 33%. But in prisons? 1.4%. Researchers say this suggests that pregnant individuals behind bars may have a higher need for reproductive care – but lower access.

Prisons have never cared about Black pregnant people, or their hypothetical children, or their families. People incarcerated while pregnant deserve better options for reproductive healthcare - and the power to make the right choice for themselves.

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