Carrying in the
Criminal Justice System
Prenatal Care of Incarcerated Women
Literature on the health outcomes of incarcerated women tends to include issues of prenatal care within the framework of overall health and also tends to recognize those characteristics of health care that are unique to women (gynecological, reproductive [birth control and abortion], and prenatal care; Brennan and Austin 1997; Wismont 2000). However, perhaps because women are only a small proportion of the inmate population, traditional correctional systems have failed to allocate substantial resources toward adequate health care for women, particularly pregnant women (Brennan and Austin 1997; Morash, Bynum, and Koons 1998; Understanding Prison Health Care 2002). In effect, there is some inconsistency in research and practice.
In taking the approach that incarcerated women—like all women and in fact all human beings—should have equal access to quality health care, we recognize that there is another point of view. Many individuals feel that, because these women were convicted of a criminal offense, they should not be given the same opportunities as women in the general population and they should not have access to quality health care. The current state of affairs in the U.S. health care system makes it seem almost unreasonable to mandate better care for these women than that which is often denied to other Americans (those who have not committed a crime) because of their race, class, or socioeconomic status. However, we believe that incarcerated women deserve quality care, despite what may not be available to women in the general population. As the saying goes, “two wrongs don't make a right.”
Presently in the United States, women have the right to use various methods of birth control and, in effect, to choose whether they want to become pregnant.