Minnesota Senate, House unanimously pass bill to create healthy beginnings for babies of incarcerated women

May 8, 2014
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Jessica Anderson 651-230-2486

St. Paul, Minn. – Today the Minnesota House of Representatives voted 132-0 in support of SF2423, a bill to create healthier beginnings for babies of incarcerated women by ensuring that pregnant and postpartum inmates have access to care, treatment, and education. The House vote followed unanimous Senate approval last week. The bill now heads to Governor Mark Dayton’s desk.

“We are grateful to Senator Barb Goodwin and Representative Carolyn Laine for authoring this bill and to all legislators who supported the legislation because they recognized how important it is to a baby’s health and development to have a mother who is safe and healthy during pregnancy and postpartum,” said Peggy Flanagan, executive director of Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota (CDF-MN). Flanagan added that “this bill is a first step toward providing a healthy start in life for the babies born to the estimated 4,200 women per year in our state who are pregnant at the time of their arrest.”

This would be the first law in Minnesota to consider the unique needs of pregnant and postpartum inmates and their babies. Under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, inmates have the right to adequate health care. While the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ (DOC) women’s facility in Shakopee and county facilities statewide have policies pertaining to pregnant and postpartum inmates, they can vary by location and are subject to change. Organizations like CDF-MN believe a statute is necessary for permanency and consistency across Minnesota’s correctional system.

In all but the most extraordinary of circumstances, the bill bans the use of restraints on pregnant women through three days postpartum, which would make Minnesota the 20th state to enact such a provision into law. Additionally, the bill would require correctional facilities to offer female inmates pregnancy and STD tests, rather than rely on the inmates to request them; access to a certified doula if there is no charge to the facility; prenatal, childbirth, and parenting educational materials; and a mental health assessment and treatment during pregnancy and postpartum including psychotropic medications and therapeutic care for postpartum depression. It also would establish an ad hoc advisory committee to consider future standards related to the pregnant and postpartum inmate population. The bill would apply to DOC this July and to all other correctional facilities in July 2015.

DOC and the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association approved the bill and advocates included CDF-MN, the Isis Rising Prison Doula Program, the Second Chance Coalition, the Minnesota Better Birth Coalition, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

CDF-MN a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for programs and policies that increase family economic stability and improve child well-being.