Abortion care almost impossible for women in US prison system – ET HealthWorld

By Anastasia Moloney and David Sherfinski

RICHMOND: When US attorney Elizabeth Laing takes the call women For people seeking legal advice about their rights to abortion, the most challenging cases often come from people who want to terminate their pregnancy while behind bars. Parole or probation.

In the two years since the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs Wade decision that established the right to abortion across the country, the Repro Legal Helpline has been flooded with calls from women struggling to access abortions. Restrictions on abortion and restrictions.

“Loss of Legal Rights “The growing concern about abortion has increased people’s fear and confusion about their reproductive lives,” said Ling. Ling manages a helpline run by abortion rights legal group If/When/How, which typically receives about 300 calls a month.

“People are trying to understand their legal rights and risks, which is incredibly difficult even for an attorney to confirm because the laws change so quickly,” Ling said. “It depends on where someone is physically; just crossing a state border can make a big difference.”

The helpline has responded to 5,361 calls since the landmark June 24, 2022 ruling, which paved the way for more than a dozen states to enact full or near-total abortion bans.

There is a growing number of calls coming from pregnant women in prison, on parole or on probation who are unsure about their legal rights and the potential risks. Travel across State boundaries To find out Abortion Care,

Abortion care is often “completely inaccessible” for these women, according to a June report from If/When/How.

For women who are under some form of managed supervision – such as parole or probation – traveling from a state with tighter restrictions to one where they have easier access can be risky.

The report highlights the case of a female caller who wanted to terminate her pregnancy while on parole in a state where abortion is restricted. She decided her only option was to “take the risk” and “deal with any consequences later” by breaking her parole conditions and traveling 500 miles to seek abortion care.

Another woman on parole, who was living in a state where abortion is a crime, made a similar decision and traveled across state borders to terminate her unwanted pregnancy, hoping her parole officer would not find out.

“Sometimes the only option is to move to another state, but they can’t move around freely. So, they must take the chance to talk to a parole officer who may be against abortion or they may be forced to take a real risk and cross state borders,” said Ling, co-author of the If/When/How report.

The helpline also received a call about a pregnant young woman in juvenile detention who wanted to have an abortion but was denied permission due to the “judge’s anti-abortion stance”.

Obstacles and delays

There are approximately 200,000 women in U.S. prisons, jails, and other incarceration facilities, and more than 800,000 women on probation and parole. It is estimated that 5% to 10% of women enter prison while pregnant.

Even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, women who were incarcerated, on parole, or on probation faced additional barriers to care compared to the general population.

Depending on gender, several states do not allow abortions to be provided to people in prison, and others only allow abortions during the first trimester.

Excluding federal probation and post-release supervision, more than four out of five women on probation or parole live in states that have some sort of ban on abortion and list travel restrictions as a standard condition of supervision, according to an analysis released this week by the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit research and advocacy group.

While women can request to travel out of state, which sometimes requires two weeks’ notice, they can’t do so without a visa, said Wanda Bertram, the group’s communications strategist.

“The person being supervised often doesn’t trust his officer,” Bertram said.

Such fear and hesitation may also apply to those still behind bars.

“Most people in incarcerated don’t even know what their rights are because they’re afraid they’re going to be spied on, they’re afraid they’re going to be punished for saying certain things or making certain requests,” Bertram said.

For those on parole or probation, even when visitation is approved, any delay in authorizing it could mean the procedure is either considered legal or a crime, depending on the state.

Any delay could mean that you may need to take pills or undergo surgery to induce an abortion.

For example, a woman on probation in South Carolina who discovers she is pregnant when she is eight weeks along would have to travel out of state to get an abortion, a Prison Policy Initiative briefing said.

“But if it takes two weeks for her to be allowed to travel, non-surgical abortion may no longer be an option because the necessary drugs are only approved for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy,” the brief states.

For people behind bars, access to medical care, including abortion care, often depends on the wishes of individual prison officers, whether prisons have the budget to transport people to appointments, and whether policies vary in different states.

Jails in nearly 100 counties in the midwestern state of Illinois do not have uniform, consistent policies regarding access to abortion and reproductive health care, if they have guidelines at all, according to a study released in March by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois and the Institute for Women’s Justice, a Chicago-based advocacy group for incarcerated women.

“What was most shocking was that many of these did not have any type of written policy regarding access to abortion — therefore, demonstrating that they were completely unprepared for the possibility that someone under their care might need an abortion,” said Emily Worth, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois and co-author of the report.

Some county jails charge women the cost of obtaining abortions, as well as the transportation and guards to get them — an expense that many people in county jails cannot afford.

“This is a huge barrier to access for most people in prison,” Werth said. (Reporting by Anastasia Moloney in Bogota and David Sherfinski in Richmond, Virginia; Editing by John Hemming. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit https://www.context.news/)

  • Published on June 21, 2024 at 06:35 PM IST

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