Democrats have introduced a bill to permanently protect pregnant and postpartum women in custody. It’s cosponsored by a range of Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent. There is not a single a Republican cosponsor of this bill, and yet this bill is all about the health and safety of pregnant women.
The party that is so concerned about pregnancy and the “sanctity of life” that they are mandating where women and girls can travel within the United States, a “free” country, and forcing them to endure medical torture when pregnant even when the fetus is not viable, does not care about the abuse and mistreatment of pregnant women in custody.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) and Representative Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX) introduced a bill that would provide permanent protections for pregnant and postpartum women in ICE and CBP custody.
The list of cosponsors: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Not an R among them. Not one single Republican. Not one single Republican cares about mistreatment of pregnant women resulting in miscarriage and stillbirth.
Why is this even needed, you should be asking yourself. In a free country that prides itself on being the example of liberty, why would we need a law to order that pregnant women not be shackled in custody. We need it because the policy changes depending on who is in the White House and what they value. This is one of the jobs of Congress, to make laws that protect basic human rights so it’s not up to the whims of an administration (and whoever the American public wants to “have a beer with”, God help us all).
This legislation was first introduced in the Senate during the January 3, 2017 to January 3, 2019 Congress after it became obvious that it was needed due to abuse of women in ICE custody, and reintroduced in 2019 after yet another report of abuse this time resulting in a stillbirth.
Mistreatment of women in custody can and has resulted in stillbirths, miscarriages and various pregnancy related health conditions. This has only increased as the number of women detained has increased over the years. “In 2008, there were 965 pregnant women in ICE custody; in 2018, there were 2,094 pregnant detainees,” Murray says on the fact sheet for the bill.
Here’s a story from July 2008 that details how pregnant women can be treated when this isn’t prohibited:
Juana Villegas, a woman from Mexico living in Tennessee, was nine months pregnant when she was pulled over by county police officers while driving with her three children in July of 2008. Suspected of being in the US without proper immigration documents, she was separated from her children and put into county jail in Nashville. After two days in jail, she was moved to a women’s correctional center. Her water broke on her third day of imprisonment, she went into labor, and she was shackled while being transported to the hospital. Davidson County police officers remained in her hospital room during her labor. They continued to keep her in shackles, in spite of a physician’s order that she not be restrained, with the exception of one officer who removed the restraints during the childbirth itself. She was shackled again after birth, and was in leg restraints even while walking and using the bathroom. Policemen unplugged the phone in her hospital room and did not allow her to call her husband; thus, her family did not know where she was for three days. After giving birth, she was returned to the correctional facility; but her infant had been taken from her, and she did not know where he was. The policemen refused to let her take the breast pump that the hospital had tried to give her, which left her with no way to express her breast milk and caused her to contract a painful, debilitating mastitis infection. The fact that she was unable to adequately move during labor and after delivery left her with pain, cramping, and an inability to fully move her left leg, weeks later. Ms. Villegas described her overall experience as traumatic and terrifying, and a psychiatrist confirmed that shackling her during transport and labor had caused terror, immense stress, and a feeling of helplessness consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Davidson County officials claimed that this treatment was legal, pursuant to the 287(g) program, which authorizes state and municipal officials to enforce federal immigration law in a limited capacity. (Hammell 246-7, footnotes omitted).
That kind of treatment has continued off and on, resulting at times in miscarriages:
Recent cases also reflect how denying and delaying health care have resulted in miscarriages (Ellmann 2019, 12). The routine use of force and restraints, and the lack of adequate food and accommodation when pregnant women are transferred between detention facilities have also been denounced (Varga 2021, 648-651). In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) et al. analyzed ten individual complaints taken from several cases of mistreatment of pregnant women in different ICE detention centers (ACLU et al. 2017). In 2020, ACLU examined four accounts of mistreatment of pregnant women in US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention (ACLU 2020). In 2021, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) et al. reported seven cases of mistreatment at Karnes County Family Residential Center (RAICES et al. 2021). These incidents continue to reverberate the types of mistreatment that Juana Villegas suffered.
“Even the thought of a pregnant woman or new mother being shackled, no matter the circumstance, should be shocking to everyone. It’s cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary,” said Senator Fetterman in a statement sent to PoliticusUSA. “We must pass this bill to ensure the protections for pregnant and post-partum women in ICE custody, where the Biden Administration has banned shackling, are made permanent and extended to women in CBP custody.”
It’s obviously a good start that the Biden administration has banned shackling, but given the state of this country, a permanent law needs to be passed to protect pregnant and postpartum women in custody.
The lack of Republican concern about these pregnancies absolutely proves that they do not care about fetuses or babies or pregnant women. So if the concern isn’t actually “life” as they claim, then what exactly is the purpose of all of these laws banning abortion and controlling the movement of women and girls like some kind of dystopian Handmaids Tale?
The answer to that question is no less horrifying for its obviousness. The cruelty is purposeful, and the point is control of the reproduction of white babies. Women of color and immigrants are left to suffer, as the U.S. has the highest rate of serious pregnancy-related complications among developed nations, “falling hardest on women of color and low-income women — in fact, Black women are three times as likely to die as white women from pregnancy-related complications.”
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