California’s top lawyer is taking steps to ensure women prisoners get appropriate reproductive health care.
“The right to be treated with dignity does not end when an individual is incarcerated,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Bonta responded to allegations that county jails have been depriving prisoners of reproductive health care, such as prenatal care, as required by state and federal law, the Fresno Bee reported Feb. 15.
The response came after the ACLU of Northern California claimed Tulare County jails were depriving prisoners of prenatal care. It sent a letter to Sheriff Mike Boudeaux expressing , “concerns over severely inadequate and unlawful provisions of prenatal care in Tulare County jails,” the Bee reported.
Bonta sent a letter to all sheriffs overseeing the states county jails requesting information that will “confirm whether the counties have the required policies in place to protect the reproductive rights of incarcerated individuals.”
Similar complaints led to a $1.5 million settlement in Orange County after a federal lawsuit alleged a woman gave birth while sitting in the infirmary cell toilet and lost the baby.
“Across the state, sheriffs and jail officials are depriving pregnant people of essential medical treatment, in violation of California law,” said ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill. “We’ve warned that the negligent and hazardous conditions in jail like those in Tulare County have already put the health of many at risk. This danger will continue until we stop locking pregnant people in facilities where medical care is deficient.”
The ACLU reported three pregnant women were denied adequate prenatal care in Tulare County jails. One of these women, Alexandra Meza, told the Bee she bled for three days before jail staff took her to the hospital. She was serving a sentence for felony DUI and was pregnant at the time of the incident.
“Blood meant that I needed to see a doctor, and every time I would tell them about it, they would just brush it off,” said Meza. “They would even make me, like, pull my pants down and show them that I was actually bleeding, like I was lying or something.”
A 2020 law requires county jails to provide a pregnancy test within 72 hours from the intake process to people who could be pregnant. This legislation also requires an inmate who is pregnant to be “scheduled for pregnancy examinations” within seven days and to receive prenatal care, as well as a nutritious diet approved by a doctor,” according to the Bee.
The AG’s office reported multiple counties have failed to make information available on their websites detailing the new legally required prenatal policies.