Report: Prison Forces Pregnant Inmates Into Early Labor

3 prisoners at Arizona's Perryville facility claim that forced inductions are prison policy
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2023 9:15 AM CST
Inmates Say Prison Forced Them to Give Birth Early
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/SerrNovik)

Three female inmates have lobbed an eyebrow-raising accusation against the Arizona prison where they're incarcerated. The three women say that when they were pregnant at the Perryville facility outside of Phoenix, they had labor induced against their will, and medical records seen by the Arizona Republic confirm that all three were induced before their due dates. The records show that Jocelyn Heffner was induced in her 37th week of gestation two separate times—in 2020 and 2022. Stephanie Pearson and Desiree Romero, meanwhile, were induced last year in the 39th week of their pregnancies. The newspaper notes that labor can be safely induced at the 39-week mark as an elective procedure, and before then if it's medically necessary. And NaphCare, the contractor that oversees the prison's health care, insists that "any decision to induce is solely the patient's choice."

However, NaphCare was only hired in October—the previous prison health-care contractor, Centurion, hasn't commented on the women's claims—and Heffner, Pearson, and Romero all say they didn't want to be induced. They add that their inductions weren't for medical reasons, but because it's Arizona Department of Corrections policy, designed to limit liability for the prison system. "They said they induce everyone because they don't want anyone going into labor here," Pearson says she was told by a prison OB-GYN, per the Republic. "Someone on a different yard a few years ago went into labor in their cell, and had their baby in the cell, and that's why they induce everyone now." She adds that her recovery after her induced labor was longer and more painful than how she'd healed after previous births. Romero says she was given similar information on prison inductions.

Heffner, meanwhile, says she pushed back on her two inductions, but her efforts were rebuffed. The Republic notes there's no mention of labor induction in the state DOC's manual on medical services in the section on caring for pregnant inmates. In 2019, attorneys from the ACLU and Prison Law Office toured the Perryville prison and reported back on "shocking and horrifying" stories from women who'd experienced pregnancies there, with allegations of abuse and neglect, KJZZ reported at the time. The three women who talked to the Republic say they didn't receive adequate treatment both during and after their pregnancies. Women's reproductive health experts tell the Republic that all medical procedures in the US should come with full patient consent, and that any violation of that at the prison via forced inductions would "absolutely be a human rights violation" if true. Much more here. (More prisons stories.)

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