March 05, 2019

Feinstein, Murray Reintroduce Bill to Stop Trump Administration from Detaining and Shackling Pregnant Women

Washington — Today, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and 23 cosponsors, reintroduced the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act. The legislation would protect the health and safety of pregnant women and youth by reinstituting the presumption of release of pregnant women and youth in immigration detention, further prohibiting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from shackling pregnant women in its custody, and setting new standards of care and transparency for the treatment of pregnant women and youth.

The bill was first introduced last summer in light of reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, and was reintroduced on the heels of a recent Washington Post report about a women in ICE custody whose pregnancy ended in a stillbirth after she went into labor prematurely.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the Trump Administration hasn’t reversed course on its heartless and dangerous policy of detaining pregnant women, which puts the health of mothers and infants at risk,” said Senator Murray. “I’m not going to stop fighting to make the Trump Administration do the right thing—end this immoral policy and make sure pregnant women get the medical care they need.”

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

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, NARAL Pro-Choice America, The Center for Reproductive Rights, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Human Rights Watch, Church World Service, MomsRising, Amnesty International, Anti-Defamation League, March of Dimes, National Council of Jewish Women, Inc, and the National Women’s Law Center.

As part of Senator Murray’s ongoing efforts on this issue, she also successfully fought to include language in the FY 2019 appropriations bill putting new restrictions on the ability of DHS to restrain pregnant women in its custody. (see Div. A, Title V SEC. 533)

See below for background 

Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act

Background 

In March, 2018, 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