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Pregnant Arizona Inmates Claim Labor Was Forcibly Induced

Three women imprisoned in the Arizona while pregnant claim their labor was induced against their will. The women say they were forced to have their labor induced, despite wanting to have a spontaneous birth. The Arizona Department of Corrections did not confirm or deny their accounts, the Arizona Republic reports. The claims shine a light on a lack of transparency around birth policies and, in some states, a lack of policy altogether. Advocates for incarcerated women have sounded alarms about what they say are human rights violations occurring before, during and after birth, including the shackling of laboring mothers and the early separation of mothers and babies, both of which are illegal in Arizona. Doctors say inducing labor should only be done with the informed consent of patients.

Medical records reviewed by The Arizona Republic show all three women were induced before their due dates. The women consented to have their medical information released. Stephanie Pearson and Desiree Romero had their labor induced at 39 weeks gestation in 2022. Jocelyn Heffner was induced in the 37th week of gestation on two separate occasions during separate incarcerations in 2020 and 2022. Research has shown that labor can be induced safely at 39 weeks if it is an elective procedure, and health care experts say labor can safely be induced before 39 weeks if there is a medical reason to do so. All three women said they were told by prison medical providers they were being induced because it was a policy of the Arizona Department of Corrections for all pregnant incarcerated women, not due to their individual conditions. The women say they were given no explanation for the policy.


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