This week, Governor Dayton signed Senate File 2425, a bill aimed at addressing some of the pregnancy and childbirth needs of incarcerated women.
This legislation is an important step in supporting incarcerated pregnant women and their unborn children in Minnesota. The law limits the use of restraints during pregnancy and the postpartum period; requires pregnancy testing at intake so prenatal care can start early; provides women with educational resources about pregnancy; gives pregnant women the opportunity to have a doula; and mandates that pregnant women have access to mental health care.
We see this as an important step, but it is, in many ways, a baby step. We know that pregnant women in prison and jail often face considerable risks prior to their incarcerations. Many of our Isis Rising clients have experienced poverty, homelessness, drug use, mental health issues, and domestic violence – all of which threaten their health and the health of their unborn children. This law is an essential first step in acknowledging the needs of incarcerated pregnant women and the importance of providing care that will promote maternal and child health in the context of incarceration.
The new law also establishes an advisory committee that will be tasked with considering care and treatment for incarcerated women and girls who are pregnant or have recently given birth. We are hopeful that this advisory committee will offer important guidance on next steps and we look forward to being involved in the process.