CONTACT: Kaitlin Owens at (202) 347-9388

July 22, 2020

Alexandria, VA – The American Conservative Union (“ACU”) Foundation commends the work of Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), and Karen Bass (D-CA) for authoring Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act or Pregnant Women in Custody Act, which was introduced today in the US House of Representatives. As a conservative organization with a focus on improving the criminal justice system for all, we are pleased to see this positive step towards affording every woman in prison a degree of basic human dignity – something that is often lost in a system designed for men.

“By providing incarcerated women with access to pregnancy-related health care and services, we can ensure better outcomes for both mothers and babies. I look forward to advancing the Pregnant Women in Custody Act and urge my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation”, says Congressman Reschenthaler.

Congresswoman Bass added, “I’m proud to be introducing this bipartisan bill to make sure that we are mindful and responsible for the health and wellness of pregnant women in prison. That means an appropriate diet, it means access to appropriate medical assistance, and it certainly means stopping the shackling of pregnant inmates. Although it’s beyond the scope of this bill, it is important that we not normalize the incarceration of pregnant women.”

Women are the fastest growing population in our federal prison system. The number of women behind bars in the United States has increased by more than 700% since the 1980s, nearly double the rate at which the male population has grown. As a result, the United States is home to approximately 30% of all of the world’s incarcerated women. Unfortunately, the unique needs and challenges of incarcerated women are often left out of conversations about criminal justice reform.

The Pregnant Women in Custody Act would address pregnancy-related needs of incarcerated women. In addition to providing access to prenatal and post-delivery care and support to pregnant and postpartum inmates, training and technical assistance would be provided to correctional staff to ensure compliance. State incentives would also be provided to further support the overall goals of the legislation.

One key provision deals with the degrading practice of shackling pregnant women during pregnancy and delivery. Unbelievably, this heinous practice still happens far too often inside our prisons. The use of shackles and restraints can cause injuries to mothers and their babies, including physical trauma due to falls, increased pain during labor from bone separation and muscle tears, blocked circulation, and miscarriage.

“This barbaric practice of shackling serves no purpose other than humiliating and endangering both the mother and child. It’s unfortunate to think that our prison system needs to be reminded to ‘treat human beings as human beings’. As conservatives, we believe every life has inherent and intrinsic worth and value. We believe a life whether in or out of the womb is precious and should be kept safe. PWIC is a pro-life bill” explained Kaitlin Owens, Policy Analyst at ACUF.

“I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in introducing this important legislation to protect women and babies in America’s prisons,” said Congresswoman Lesko. “It is important that we protect life and provide a safe environment for the rising number of incarcerated expectant mothers and their babies. With its data collection, health care standards, and training, I’m hopeful this bill will improve conditions for expectant mothers.”

As conservatives, we believe it is possible to be tough on crime, while recognizing that each person has inherent value. The principles underlying the Pregnancy Women in Custody Act will help to preserve the human dignity of justice-involved women and keep their newborn children safe and healthy, all while achieving more positive results for families throughout the country.

Our mission at the American Conservative Union Foundation is to educate Americans about conservative solutions to the country’s most pressing problems. ACUF’s Nolan Center for Justice promotes policies that improve public safety, reduce government cost, and protect human dignity. Criminal Justice Reform is a high priority for ACUF, and it has been highlighted at each of ACUF’s Conservative Political Action Conferences (CPAC) for over a decade.

For more information on the ACUF Nolan Center for Justice, please go to