Bad Times for Pregnant Women
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like every day this week I’ve seen another story about questionable to outright appalling treatment of pregnant women. One was the case of a woman with allegedly false immigration documents, who learned that she was pregnant and HIV positive. The judge in that case decided to sentence her to prison through her due date (longer than the sentence might otherwise have been), under the rationale that she would receive medical/HIV treatment in prison. Something is really, really wrong when prison is a first, best option for medical care, especially for a pregnant woman. Apparently this decision wasn’t made on behalf of the woman and whatever pregnancy-related care she may need, though, but with an eye toward forcing her to take medications to reduce transmission to the fetus. RH Reality Check has more background and detailed analysis here, and an update from after bail was granted, following an outcry from groups such as the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and the ACLU.
There’s also a class action lawsuit brewing against the Cook County (IL) Sheriff’s Department from women who were cuffed while giving birth (who were incarcerated at the time). According to the linked piece, “The women’s lawyers say as many as 100 women held in Cook County facilities have been handcuffed or shackled while giving birth.” You all know I don’t approve of that. At all.
Finally, via Radical Doula and the Feminist Majority Foundation Choices Campus Blog, I found out about this piece on RaceWire alleging that a Mississippi immigrant’s newborn was taken away because the mother does not speak English, and only a Spanish interpreter was provided at the hospital (she doesn’t speak Spanish, but an indigenous Mexican language). A reporter for the (MS) Clarion-Ledger also notes that:
Court records obtained by The Clarion-Ledger indicate Cruz is charged with neglecting her child, in part, because “she has failed to learn the English language” and “was unable to call for assistance for transportation to the hospital” to give birth. Her inability to speak English “placed her unborn child in danger and will place the baby in danger in the future,” according to the document.
They add that the hospital document accused the mother of “exchanging living arrangements for sex” and planning to place the child up for adoption, although an advocacy organization involved in the case disputes the allegations. While little other information is available about this case, it’s terrifying to think that someone could potentially have their child taken away simply because of a language barrier and/or a hospital staff that ineptly selects an interpreter.
In all of these cases, the women involved were particularly vulnerable – through their immigration status, through their language, through their status as incarcerated women – vulnerabilities that were piled onto because of their status as pregnant women. I don’t have anything truly profound to say about these cases, but that I’m glad organizations like NAPW and others are out there and paying attention to the civil liberties of pregnant women.