July 17, 2018

Democrats Introduce Legislation to Stop Trump Administration from Detaining and Shackling Pregnant Women

Washington — Today, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and 20 cosponsors, introduced the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act, legislation to protect the health and safety of pregnant women and youth in immigration detention by reinstituting the presumption of release of pregnant women and youth, prohibiting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from shackling pregnant women in its custody, and setting new standards of care and transparency for the treatment of pregnant women and youth. Senator Murray’s legislation comes in light of recent reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

In March the Trump Administration publically announced it was ending an Obama-era policy that presumed the release of pregnant women and youth from ICE custody. The Administration had secretly ended the policy last year, and has since detained more 500 pregnant women.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that in our country pregnant women are being detained, shackled, and denied the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy,” said Senator Murray. “The Trump Administration should immediately reverse course on this heartless and dangerous policy that puts the health of mothers and infants at risk. I’m proud to introduce legislation to make them do just that by reinstating the former policy that presumes the release of pregnant women and youth and setting new standards of medical care and transparency around how our government treats pregnant women and youths in detention.”

In addition to Feinstein and Murray, the legislation is cosponsored by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act, has been endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Women’s Refugee Commission, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, NARAL Pro-Choice America, The Center for Reproductive Rights, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Human Rights Watch, Guttmacher Institute, Church World Service, MomsRising, Amnesty International, Anti-Defamation League, March of Dimes, and National Council of Jewish Women, Inc.


Click HERE for text of S.3225 the (Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act).

Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act 

Background 

In March, despite statements of opposition and letters signed by more than 250 civil and human rights organizations[1] the Trump Administration publicly announced it had ended the policy of presumed release of pregnant women and youth in immigration detention. The administration rescinded the policy—in secret—in December.[2] According to an internal memo published on March 29, 2018, ICE no longer honors the previous policy, and instead makes a “case-by-case custody determination taking any special factors into account” when considering pregnant women and youth.[3] Prior to December 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only detained a pregnant woman or youth if she was a threat to herself or others, or was a public safety risk. Between December and April ICE detained more than 500 pregnant women.[4]Under the new policy, pregnant women in ICE detention do not have access to appropriate prenatal medical care and have miscarried in ICE custody.[5]

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians wrote, “[t]he decision puts the health of women and adolescents and their pregnancies at great risk.”[6] Shackling places women who are already at high-risk for pregnancy-related complications in more danger, interferes with safe medical practice and with normal labor and delivery, and puts the health of women and their pregnancies at great risk.[7]

Legislative Summary

To protect the health and safety of pregnant women and youth in detention, the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act will reinstate the presumption of release of pregnant women and youth, set minimum standards for health care, prohibit shackling, and require public reporting on the detention of pregnant women.

  • Reinstates the presumption of release of pregnant women and youth, with exceptions only when the DHS Secretary makes an individualized determination that credible, reasonable grounds exist to believe that the person presents an immediate and serious threat of hurting herself or others. If detained, only the least restrictive means of detention are permitted with a weekly review mandated.
  • Prohibits the shackling of pregnant women in custody at any time during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum recovery.
  • Sets a minimum standards of comprehensive health care for any pregnant women or youth in custody including: routine or specialized prenatal care, comprehensive counseling, postpartum follow-up services, lactation services, and abortion services.
  • Requires pregnant women and youth in custody are given privacy during a pelvic exam, labor, delivery, or treatment of any other symptom relating to a pregnancy.
  • Requires public quarterly reporting on detention of pregnant women and youth, including audits and reports to Congress.

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[2] Lopez, Victoria , “Working to Uncover How ICE Treats Pregnant Women in Detention” (May 3, 2018) https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/working-uncover-how-ice-treats-pregnant-women

[3] The Hill, “ICE Will Detain Pregnant Women, Ending Previous Policy” (March 29, 2018) http://thehill.com/latino/380827-ice-will-detain-pregnant-women-ending-previous-policy

[4] NPR, “Pregnant and Detained” (April 6, 2018) https://www.npr.org/2018/04/05/599802820/pregnant-and-detained

[5] BuzzFeed, “Pregnant Women Say They Miscarried In Immigration Detention And Didn't Get The Care They Needed” (July 9, 2018) https://www.buzzfeed.com/emaoconnor/pregnant-migrant-women-miscarriage-cpb-ice-detention-trump?utm_term=.odgNJmwNW#.raoDd49D0

[6] American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, Letter to ICE Acting Director Homan (March 30, 2018) https://www.acog.org/-/media/Departments/Government-Relations-and-Outreach/2018ACOG-AAP-AAFP-LTRtoICE.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20180703T2345467948