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Abortion Bans in the United States Create “Insurmountable Impediments” for Jailed Women
When the Supreme Court of the United States voted in June to remove constitutional safeguards for abortion, it essentially made the situation much more difficult for a great number of pregnant women who were already incarcerated and were seeking abortions.
In many correctional facilities in the United States, reproductive healthcare is already frequently provided in deplorable conditions. The experts warn that the overturning of Roe v. Wade will now result in even more severe consequences for a community that is already at a disadvantage because many pregnant inmates face dire circumstances on a regular basis, including being denied abortions or being forced to give birth while shackled.
According to the Sentencing Project, the number of women who will be behind bars in the United States will have climbed by more than 475% between the years 1980 and 2020. The state with the greatest rate of female incarceration in the United States in 2020 was Idaho, with 110 females locked up for every 100,000 female residents in the state.
This was followed by Oklahoma, South Dakota, Arizona, Wyoming, Kentucky, and Montana. A little over two years ago, the rate of incarceration for black women was approximately 1.7 times higher than the rate of incarceration for white women. In the meantime, the incarceration rate for Latina women was almost 1.3 times that of white women.
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According to research conducted by the Prison Policy Initiative, there are an average of 58,000 pregnant women who are incarcerated in local jails or prisons each year. There are currently draconian abortion restrictions in place in almost all of the states that already have the highest rates of female incarceration. This is the case in many of the states that already have the highest rates.
According to Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, who spoke with the Guardian, “people experiencing incarceration and pregnancy in states where abortion has been severely restricted or outlawed altogether will likely face new barriers as jails and prisons seek to hide behind the supreme court’s decision to avoid their constitutional obligation to provide healthcare (including abortion) to people in custody.” “People experiencing incarceration and pregnancy in states where abortion has been severe
“Even in cases where correctional staff and officials do not intentionally block access to care, the reduced availability of services and the need to travel even greater distances to access legal abortion, as well as the increased demand for services in states where abortion is still legal, will only exacerbate all of the financial and logistical obstacles that already existed,” she continued.
A survey of incarcerated people’s access to abortion was conducted at a total of 22 state prison systems, as well as six county jail systems, as part of a study that was led by Carolyn Sufrin of Johns Hopkins University, who is the director of the Advocacy and Research on Reproductive Wellness of Incarcerated People program there.
The research, which took place over the course of a year, from 2016 to 2017, and was eventually published in 2021, discovered that there was already a multitude of barriers, such as requirements for self-payment, that can prohibit a pregnant convict from accessing the care. When abortions were legalized, there were 19 states in total; 16 of those states forced the woman who was pregnant to pay for the procedure.
Why Some States Have Effectively Banned All Abortions?
The new legislation in Alabama outlaws all types of abortion beginning at the point when a “woman [is] known to be pregnant,” with no exemptions allowed. This is the strictest law that has ever been passed. There are already laws in place in the states of Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana that restrict abortions beyond around six weeks of pregnancy. This is before many people are even aware that they are pregnant.
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