March 07, 2022

Reschenthaler, Bass Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Pregnant Prisoners and their Babies

WASHINGTON. D.C. – U.S. Representatives Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) and Karen Bass (CA-37), reintroduced the Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act.?This legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote last Congress, would establish a national standard of care to provide prenatal and post-delivery care to incarcerated women and their babies.  

“The Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act will safeguard incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women, and their children, by guaranteeing access to prenatal care and post-delivery support,” said Rep. Reschenthaler. “Given the number of incarcerated women and girls has grown by more than 700 percent over three decades, it is critical that we establish a national standard of care for pregnant prisoners. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation and look forward to securing better outcomes for both mothers and babies.” 

“Our prison system was not created with women in mind and as a result continually fails to provide basic necessities to tens of thousands of individuals who are incarcerated every single day,” said Rep. Bass. “I’m proud to be introducing this bipartisan bill to make sure that we are mindful and responsible for the health and wellness of pregnant women in prison. That means an appropriate diet, it means access to appropriate medical assistance, and it certainly means stopping the shackling of pregnant inmates. Although it’s beyond the scope of this bill, it is important that we not normalize the incarceration of pregnant women. In fact, we should examine whether incarcerating pregnant women at all is the best way to address public safety.”  

Specifically, the Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act would support incarcerated pregnant women and their unborn children by: 

  • Providing access to prenatal and post-delivery care and support. 
  • Ensuring the Federal Bureau of Prisons captures accurate data on the health and mental health care needs of pregnant inmates. 
  • Providing incentives for states to enact and enforce similar laws and policies. 
  • Requiring the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on current practices for pregnant women in state and local jails and prisons. 

This legislation has been endorsed by the following organizations: American Psychological Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP), DreamCorps (formerly #Cut50), Vera Institute for Justice, R Street Institute, American Conservative Union.