California Legislators Think Pregnant Inmates Need Abortions
California Legislators Let Abortion Ideology Cloud Pro-Woman Legislation
Earlier this year, the California State Assembly passed AB 732, legislation which would protect incarcerated pregnant women in California. AB 732 would prevent the tasering of pregnant female prison inmates, as well as the use of pepper spray or other chemical weapons against pregnant women. This is good; in fact, it is shocking that pregnant women in prison would be subject to such treatment. AB 732 would remedy the injustice of mistreatment of pregnant women in jails and prisons. At the same time, it would unconceivably perpetuate another injustice: the taking of innocent life in the womb through abortion.
Under the legislation, no restrictions can be placed on a pregnant inmate’s ability to have an abortion. This makes AB 732 unacceptable to the pro-life movement. While the pro-life movement would want to support legislation that protects the dignity of the women in prison, it cannot support legislation that would simultaneously permit violence against the unborn. AB 732 rightly seeks to halt violence against pregnant women in jails in prisons, but it fails to protect innocent babies in prisons and jails from being killed in the womb, and affirmatively protects the ability of incarcerated pregnant women to kill their unborn children.
Violence against pregnant inmates is a problem. For example, a 2017 investigative series by Reuters revealed that a jail in Columbus, Ohio caused a miscarriage in a pregnant inmate after tasering her. A report by PrisonPolicy.org noted, “This past August, released surveillance footage showed 26-year-old Diana Sanchez alerting Denver County Jail deputies and medical staff that she was in labor just hours before she gave birth to her son, alone in her cell. With her pleas ignored by staff, Sanchez was forced to give birth without any medical aid or assistance.” AB 732 addresses these issues by banning the use of tasers against pregnant women in California jails and prisons and facilitating medical help for pregnant women.
Furthermore, the legislation would ensure all female inmates have access to personal hygiene products and ensure they have information about pregnancy, as well as access to high-quality, nutritious food and medical care while pregnant. Lack of access to hygiene products is an ongoing problem in prisons.
A 2018 Huffington Post article covered this problem. They found, “In federal prison, two tampons cost $5.55. A pair of panty liners go for $1.35. Further, prisons limit the number of pads and tampons that inmates can buy. Some institutions offer these items for free, but they usually don’t supply enough.”
A former inmate wrote in Ms. Magazine of her experience; “Along with many of the women I was incarcerated with, I used my own homemade products rather than beg for more from an unconcerned correctional officer or risk bleeding through my clothes. As a result of my creativity to survive with some modicum of dignity, I ended up needing a hysterectomy when I got home.”
But AB 732 contains a provision that is contrary to respecting life and the dignity of all individuals. The legislation would facilitate abortions by pregnant women in jails or prisons. As the text of AB 732 explains,
If a pregnant person decides to have an abortion, that person shall be offered, but not forced to accept, all due medical care and accommodations until they are no longer pregnant. A pregnant person who decides to have an abortion shall be referred to a licensed professional...
The inmate would be “no longer pregnant” because the state facilitated the killing of a child in the womb. Legislation that began with the noble and necessary intention of protecting incarcerated pregnant women ends up allowing those vulnerable women to destroy the vulnerable life in the womb that should be protected.
The authors of AB 732 should be acknowledged for identifying the dangers pregnant women face in jails and prisons. Their legislation has much that is good in it. But the explicit support for abortion in AB 732 makes it untenable.
Students for Life stands ready to work with others to protect pregnant women in jails and prisons. But we cannot cooperate with those who think that that life in the womb is less valuable, less human, and less worthy of dignity than the lives of the mothers of those babies.