Blog of Rights


Tennessee and Virginia Agree: Stop Shackling Pregnant Women

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 11:02am
Women's dignity was vindicated twice in a double dose of justice on Thursday. A federal jury in Tennessee awarded Juana Villegas $200,000 as compensation for the suffering she endured when the Davidson County Sheriff's Office unconstitutionally shackled her to her delivery bed in 2008.

"Personhood Nevada" Reminds Us Why the Ballot Box is No Place for Guessing Games

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 5:35pm

Today the Nevada Supreme Court heard arguments in Personhood Nevada v. Bristol, a case reviewing the legality of a proposed ballot initiative aimed at interfering with private health care decisions. In January, a lower court judge declared the…

Court Forces Bed Rest on Pregnant Woman

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 1:43pm

The State of Florida apparently considers confining pregnant women to bed rest "status quo."

You may be wondering if you read that correctly. You did. The State of Florida actually took the position that it is simply maintaining…

"No One Should Go Through What I Went Through"

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 2:30pm

That’s what Bethany Cajúne told me the first time we spoke about her experience in Montana’s Lake County Detention Facility. “No one should go through what I went through.” We filed a case earlier today to make sure…

"Don't Tell and They Won't Ask": Reproductive Health Care in Immigration Detention

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 3:18pm

Detained and Dismissed: Women's Struggles to Obtain Health Care in United States Immigration Detention, a report released today by Human Rights Watch, sheds much-needed light on the unique harms immigrant detention centers inflict on the reproductive…

Meeting the Health Care Needs of Pregnant Inmates

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 1:09pm

(Originally posted on Feministing.)

Today, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health published a nationwide survey — "Incarcerated Women and Abortion Provision: A Survey of Correctional Health Providers," by Carolyn B. Sufrin, Mitchell D. Creinin, and Judy C. Chang. For the first time, we have a comprehensive understanding of whether incarcerated women can obtain abortion care in U.S. correctional facilities. The authors surveyed health professionals who provide clinical care in prisons; only 68 percent of respondents indicated that women in their facilities can obtain "elective" abortions. To state the disturbingly obvious flip-side of that statistic: more than 30 percent of respondents indicated that women within their facilities could not access abortion care.

A few weeks ago, an investigative piece in the Texas Observer reported, "For pregnant women in immigration detention facilities, it is virtually impossible to obtain an abortion." Interviews with sexual assault counselors, researchers, and advocates reveal that pregnant detainees — including those who are pregnant as a result of having been raped while crossing the border — face immense, often complete, barriers when they seek abortion information and services. According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson quoted in that story, of nearly 1,000 pregnant detainees in 2008 "no detainee has had a pregnancy terminated while in ICE custody," though as the article also makes clear, we know that at least some of these women would have requested information about terminating their pregnancies.

What exactly is going on? First, let's put to rest any lingering doubts: The Supreme Court did notrecently decide that pregnant women lose their right to have an abortion when they are in prison, and the Bush administration did not push through a midnight regulation banning reproductive health care for incarcerated women. To the contrary, as I explain in a Viewpoint (PDF) piece published along with the Sufrin study, the law is clear -- women do not lose their right to abortion because of imprisonment, and correctional authorities must ensure that women in their custody have adequate access to abortion care. Likewise, pregnant women who plan to carry to term have a constitutional right to medical care throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery. Unfortunately, too often authorities disregard the unique health needs of pregnant women and assume that they have discretion to permit or deny care as they see fit. As Sufrin's survey confirms, when it comes to abortion, this can lead to a hodgepodge of policies, practices, and perceptions among correctional authorities and staff.

Victory in the Regina McKnight Case

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 2:23pm
Earlier this week, the South Carolina Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Regina McKnight, a woman convicted in 2001 of homicide after suffering a stillbirth and admitting to cocaine usage, did not have a fair trial. In so doing, the court recognized…
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