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Hirono, Colleagues Reintroduce Legislation to Address Maternal Health Crisis Among Incarcerated People

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) in reintroducing the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act, legislation that seeks to improve care for pregnant and postpartum people who are incarcerated. The legislation would provide funding to supply exceptional care, commission a study aimed at understanding how to better address the maternal health crisis within our prison system, and ban the use of restraints or shackles for incarcerated pregnant women. U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives in May 2023

“All pregnant people deserve safety and dignity, regardless of whether or not they’re incarcerated,” said Senator Hirono. “Too often, our jails and prisons fail pregnant people in custody, including the horrific practice of shackling women during childbirth. Our bill would help bring an end to this practice and provide funding to expand health and wellness support for pregnant people before, during, and after birth.”

There are over 100,000 women in prisons across the United States, with three-quarters of them being of childbearing age. Additionally, women in prison are at a heightened risk for maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity, with these poor maternal health outcomes disproportionately affecting Black women who are imprisoned at twice the rate of white women. 

Specifically, the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act would: 

  1. Use financial incentives for all state and local prisons and jails to end the practice of shackling pregnant people;
  2. Provide funding for federal, state, and local prisons and jails to establish programs for pregnant and postpartum women in their facilities, including access to support for doulas and other perinatal health workers, counseling, reentry assistance, maternal-infant bonding opportunities, and diversionary programs to prevent incarceration for pregnant and postpartum people; and
  3. Commission a comprehensive study on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity among incarcerated people, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.

The Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act is endorsed by more than 180 organizations including the American Nurses Association, American Psychological Association, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Women’s Law Center, and the National Women’s Health Network. The full list of endorsing organizations is available here.

Senator Hirono has been a long-time advocate of maternal and reproductive health. In 2021, Senator Hirono first introduced the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act as one of 12 bills that were part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act that addressed the maternal health crisis and racial and ethnic disparities in health access and outcomes. In March 2024, Senator Hirono cosponsored the Access to Family Building Act, legislation that would protect access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technology (ART) by establishing a statutory right to access IVF for all Americans who need it to start or grow a family. In May 2023, Senator Hirono reintroduced the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening (BABES) Enhancement Act, bipartisan legislation to make it easier for parents to safely embark on air travel with breast milk and breastfeeding supplies, including ice packs. This legislation would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to clarify and regularly update guidance on handling breast milk, baby formula, and other related nutrition products in consultation with leading maternal health groups.

The full text of the legislation is available here