Public Comments for: SB1300 - Inmates; Board of Local and Regional Jails to review services provided during pregnancy, etc.
My name is Abbie Henrickson, and I live in Sterling, Virginia. I am writing to urge you to support Senate Bill 1300 (Workgroup on Reproductive Healthcare for Pregnant Incarcerated Persons). I am deeply concerned about the treatment of pregnant incarcerated persons. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals.” Establishing a workgroup to study and recommend best practices for the care and treatment of pregnant incarcerated persons is crucial. The commonwealth has the responsibility for the care and treatment of pregnant persons throughout their pregnancy and during the postpartum period. Although there are many reasons that demonstrate the need for this workgroup, I will highlight some of them below: *Eliminating of the use of restraints (handcuffs, waist chains, or leg irons). Pregnant incarcerated persons are unlikely to be violent offenders or flight risks. This would reduce the risk of the pregnant person falling and the risk of preventing pregnant persons failing to bond with their children, which can have long-term negative consequences. *Ensuring access to routine medical appointments. *Ensuring the fulfillment of nutritional needs. *Access to safe abortions, which is critical reproductive healthcare. I urge you to support Senate Bill 1300. Thank you for your consideration.
My name is Howard Gwynn, and I am the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Newport News. I have been a prosecutor here since May 1, 1982. I write this email to register my strong support for SB1300. This bill will go a long towards ensuring that incarcerated pregnant inmates get “… the full range of obstetric and gynecological services” necessary to make sure that the needs of mother and child are met. This bill also recognizes the fact that , in spite of the fact that they have committed a criminal offense, these women are first and foremost human beings and should be treated with dignity and respect. Thank you for being the patron of this very important legislation.
I became a grandmother to a beautiful and healthy baby boy three years ago. When Max was still in utero, he was already over eight pounds— I still remember my daughter’s fear when she thought about pushing him in a natural birth. She asked for a c-section, but the doctor advised her against it until it was absolutely necessary, recommending the best option for her health and her pregnancy. We certainly weren’t prepared for her delivery date. When her contractions started early that morning, we headed off to the hospital where she was admitted, despite her contractions not being close enough in time to typically warrant admission. While we waited, her doula provided safe, compassionate support by helping my daughter use an exercise ball and breathing techniques. By 7pm that night, my daughter was begging for an epidural and pain management from her doctors—but they refused, saying she wasn’t far enough along yet. My daughter and I both knew her body and her pain tolerance. Our doula tried her best to advocate on my daughter’s behalf, but still, nothing. It wasn’t until 11pm that night she finally got the epidural and intravenous pain management. In the hours that followed, she kept pressing the call button because she was still in pain, but received no additional care. To not be heard and respected when you try to communicate your pain, it’s devastating. And it was devastating for me too, to watch as a mother and not be able do anything to help my child. At 1am, she said she could feel the baby coming. Even when she said our little Max was coming, the doctors and nurses still didn’t believe her, so she was told not to push. It wasn’t until the nurse finally checked her dilation, nearly 45 minutes later, that she finally acquiesced my daughter was more than ready. It only took five pushes for my grandson to be born after that. Once my grandson was born, my daughter began shaking uncontrollably to the point where she couldn’t even hold him. We were shocked at how she had been treated already, and I was terrified something else was wrong. Max was having trouble breathing at first, too, because of how long he had to wait to finally arrive into the world. Those stressful minutes felt like hours. Today, Max is a bouncy, energetic three-year-old and my daughter is a healthy and wonderful mother. But that birthing experience traumatized both of us. I can’t even begin to imagine how much worse it could have been if my daughter had been incarcerated. If she had been shackled to the delivery bed, like some women still are in the Commonwealth, would she have self-inflicted harm to her body when she began shaking uncontrollably? If she didn’t have her doula by her side advocating for her, would she have had to wait even longer to begin pushing, potentially causing life-altering respiratory harm to my grandson? Every person – regardless if they’re incarcerated – deserves to have a safe and compassionate birthing experience. Even though Max’s birth was difficult, my daughter didn’t have to suffer at all the same kind of dehumanizing treatment our incarcerated women – and their pregnancies -- are forced through. That’s why I’m asking you to please support SB1300. Thank you for your time.
The baby is not guilty of any crime. Therefore, the jurisdiction MUST provide any and all services necessary for the birth and care of the baby until such arraignments can be made to remove the baby from the existing environment.