Senate, House pass bills requiring prison pregnancy policies

Steve Lash//March 21, 2018

Senate, House pass bills requiring prison pregnancy policies

By Steve Lash

//March 21, 2018

ANNAPOLIS – Legislation to require state and local prisons to have written policies regarding pregnant inmates’ medical care has passed the Senate and House of Delegates and appears headed to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk pending additional, procedural votes.

The Senate approved its version of the legislation, Senate Bill 629, by a 37-7 vote Wednesday; the House passed its measure, House Bill 787, by a 107-29 vote March 1. The respective, identical bills must now be passed by the opposite chamber before the unified legislation goes to the governor.

Opposition to the measure has been from conservative lawmakers and based in large part on a provision that would require the written policies to address access to abortion care, including information about providers and transportation. The bill also would require the policies to address access to child-placement resources, including adoption and foster care.

Sen. Justin D. Ready, an opponent of the bill, voiced concern Wednesday the measure goes beyond mere regulation of prison operations.

“It seems like an attempt to insert social politics into the process of how they run the jails,” said Ready, R-Carroll.

Supporters of the bill, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, have cited concern for the health of pregnant inmates.

“Pregnant women who are in the custody of the state’s correctional facilities currently suffer from a lack of information on health care services due to a haphazard system of inconsistent policies regarding pregnancy and detainees,” Pugh’s office of governmental relations stated in written testimony to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “Under current law, correctional facilities are not required to provide pregnant women with information on health serves regarding their pregnancy. This creates a dangerous knowledge gap for a population of women who already face challenges in ensuring healthy birth outcomes.”

Under the legislation, each correctional facility must specify in writing its procedures for providing pregnancy testing to all female inmates and access to prenatal care, including routine appointments, lab work and nutritional counseling. The written policy must be given to all pregnant inmates.

The policy must also cover labor and child-delivery procedures, including where they will occur and transportation for the expectant mother. Postpartum care must also be in the written policy, including a schedule of care and accommodations for pumping and storing breast milk.

In addition, the policy must address high-risk pregnancies, including inmates suffering from substance abuse, and cover miscarriage management, including the appropriate level of on-site, off-site and follow-up care.

Sen. Delores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore County, is chief sponsor of SB 629. Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery, is chief sponsor of HB 787.


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