How To Throw Your Support Behind The Stop Shackling & Detaining Pregnant Women Act

by Caroline Burke
Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Though you might feel concerned that legislation has to be introduced to prevent something like this from happening, a new bill could stop pregnant women from being shackled and held in migrant facilities. The bill, aptly called the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act, was introduced to the Senate on Tuesday and you can let your senator know that you support it.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the piece of legislation, along with 21 other co-sponsors including Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In a press release via The Hill, Murray said,

It is absolutely unacceptable that in our country pregnant women are being detained, shackled, and denied the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy...The Trump Administration should immediately reverse course on this heartless and dangerous policy that puts the health of mothers and infants at risk.

Specifically, the bill will prevent immigration officials from detaining pregnant women, excluding cases where the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides that the pregnant woman in question poses an immediate threat to herself or others.

Murray began work on the bill upon hearing a report by Buzzfeed News detailing how detained pregnant women have apparently been shackled around the stomach, and are supposedly neglected. ICE has maintained that it consistently provides pregnant women with the appropriate medical care.

ICE's official stance on detaining pregnant women ensures that “pregnant detainees receive appropriate medical care including effectuating transfers to facilities that are able to provide appropriate medical treatment.” However, BuzzFeed News reported that this directive supposedly was not being carried out in practice.

Via several written affidavits and interviews, five women told Buzzfeed News their stories of being pregnant while detained in migrant facilities. These stories included reportedly being told they weren't miscarrying when they were, and apparently being physically abused by an ICE worker who knew of the woman's pregnancy.

In one of these written testimonies, one woman detailed the clothes that were given to her which were so small they left welts on her skin and "pain in her uterus." Another woman told BuzzFeed that she was forced to undergo several X-rays, even though she saw on the machine that pregnant women were not supposed to have them.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, ICE reiterated its standard practice of giving pregnant women proper medical care, and only detaining those who are in their first or second trimesters. "Detainees, determined to be pregnant, are provided appropriate education, pre-natal care, and post-natal care,” the statement said. “Such care includes referral to a physician specializing in high-risk pregnancies when high-risk pregnancy is indicated.”

Murray's bill has not yet gained bipartisan support. Senator Booker has said of the bill that he hopes it will soon receive support from Republicans, but that even if it doesn't, “perhaps by bringing this to the public’s attention, it will change practices."

If you want to support the passing of this bill into law, you can call your own senator and press them as to why they haven't signed on their support to the bill, and encourage them to do so. The Senate Capital switchboard can connect you with the Senate Office of your specific senator, or you can find their email and phone number here.

If your senator is one of the 21 who have already signed on to co-sponsor it, you can call them or reach out to them on social media and let them know how important it is to you that they continue pushing for this legislation. You can also spread the word on social media about the bill itself, so that others can put similar pressure on their representatives to vote it into law.