If you are pregnant in prison, your rights to prenatal care and other services are protected under the United States Constitution. This means that you have a constitutional right to have access to this care, and the prison must provide it. The purpose of this article is to briefly outline these rights. I also offer options for what to do if you aren’t getting the care you need. Finally, you will learn more about choosing to parent, foster care, and placing your baby for adoption.
Pregnant In Prison
The US Constitution protects your right to reproductive and sexual health care while in prison. Specifically, a pregnant woman in prison has the right to:
- Abortion (if it’s legal in her state)
- Regular prenatal care
- Additional food and prenatal vitamins
- Safety accommodations, such as a lower bunk
- Deliver her baby in a hospital
- Pump milk for her baby
- Choose parenting and to choose a family or friend to parent until she is released
- Place the child in foster care or for adoption
How to get the prenatal and other care you need
If you aren’t getting the care you need and that you are entitled to by law, here’s what you can do:
- First, you should ask for it and ask to see the prison’s written policy and guidelines.
- Talk with an attorney. Your defense attorney maybe able to help.
- Express your concerns to your nurse or treating physician and ask them to help you report it to the ombudsman.
- Reach out to advocates, like Prisoner’s with Children, and ask for support in getting the care you need.
Parenting, foster care, and adoption
If you are pregnant in prison, you have the right to parent your child, place your child in foster care, or place your child for adoption. Every woman’s situation is different, and some of these options aren’t realistic for everyone. As you consider your options, you should talk with family and friends about how they can support you.
Parenting may be an option for you if your spouse or partner can take care of your baby until you are released. You can place your child directly with them. Single moms usually don’t have this option. However, if you have friends or family members who are willing to care for your baby while you are incarcerated, this is an option as well.
Fear Of Foster Care
Many women are afraid to place their child in foster care. This is because they worry their child will not be returned after they are released. Every state and every county does things a little differently. If you are considering foster care for your baby, be sure to talk with your case worker and your attorney to understand the risks. You specifically want to ask the circumstances under which your baby will not be returned to you.
For some women, adoption may be a woman’s best option if she is pregnant in prison. Typically, pregnant women in prison who consider adoption are in situations where a woman would consider adoption even if she wasn’t in prison. Their life circumstances are frequently similar: no financial means, lack of support from family or friends, not ready to be a parent.
If you are pregnant in prison and considering adoption, you can learn more about the process here. You can also reach out to me directly using the contact options on this page. I am an adoption attorney and a birth mother. I placed my son for adoption many years ago, and my services are absolutely free!