Blog of Rights

Core Civil Liberties Threatened in State Legislatures: Three Trends to Watch

State legislatures are ground zero in the fight for civil liberties. Although they may not attract as much attention as debates in Congress or arguments in the Supreme Court, they are the source of unprecedented assaults on our most fundamental rights.

Reproductive Justice and Women's Rights

By Risha Foulkes, Women's Rights Project at 9:59am

Autonomy. Equality. Racism. Eugenics. Immigration. Environment. Abortion. Gender. A list of provocative and important words shot around the room at a recent Berkeley Law School symposium on reproductive justice. The goal was to define and advance that…

ACLU Works to End Barbaric Practice of Shackling Pregnant Women Prisoners

By Elizabeth Alexander, Elizabeth Alexander, National Prison Project at 12:55pm

Shackling pregnant women during active labor and childbirth is, unfortunately, all too common in our nation’s prisons and jails. One such victim of this practice was Shawanna Nelson, who entered the Arkansas prison system when she was six…

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.

Blog Series on Reproductive Rights in Prison

By Rachel Hart, Reproductive Freedom Project at 2:57pm
RH Reality Check ran a great series last week on reproductive rights in prison, an issue which the ACLU has done quite a bit of work. The blog postings ranged from sexual abuse in prison to mothering as a reproductive right. I've pasted some excerpts…
Amidst the Budget Chaos, Long-Awaited Abortion Coverage for Women in the Peace Corps

Amidst the Budget Chaos, Long-Awaited Abortion Coverage for Women in the Peace Corps

By Georgeanne M. Usova, Washington Legislative Office at 12:00am

The news out of Washington this weekend was dramatic as lawmakers hashed out an eleventh hour deal over a $1.1 trillion funding bill to narrowly avert a government shutdown. But amidst the chaos and special interest wins in favor of salty lunches and…

#LetsTalk About Abortion

#LetsTalk About Abortion

By Erin White, Communications Manager, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project at 12:25pm

Research shows that nearly one in three women will have an abortion by the time she turns 45. Yet, far too often, we still think of abortion as a dirty word, not fit for polite company.

It's long past time for that to change. And thankfully,…

New Alabama Law Puts Teens Who Need Abortions on Trial. That's Dangerous and Cruel.

New Alabama Law Puts Teens Who Need Abortions on Trial. That's Dangerous and Cruel.

By Jennifer Dalven, Reproductive Freedom Project at 3:02pm

Picture this: You are 17 years old, in your senior year of high school, and you've just learned you're pregnant. You'd like to be able to turn to your parents for support but you know you can't. After all, they kicked your older sister out of the house…

How I'm Celebrating Gloria Steinem's Birthday

How I'm Celebrating Gloria Steinem's Birthday

By Diana Scholl, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 8:23am

What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much. Boys…

My Employer Shamed Me for Using Birth Control

My Employer Shamed Me for Using Birth Control

On March 25, the Supreme Court will hear arguments from companies that want to violate this law. Here is a story from one of the many women whose boss has tried to deny her birth control.