Volume 56

Reproductive Healthcare for Incarcerated Women: From "Rights" to "Dignity"

by Samantha Laufer

This Note examines the current state of reproductive rights for incarcerated women in the United States. Part I looks at the general constitutional framework governing women’s healthcare in correctional facilities. Part II looks at three spe-cific areas: (1) access to abortion while incarcerated; (2) the shackling of female prisoners during childbirth; and (3) access to menstrual hygiene products in prisons and jails. A close examination of these issues makes clear that both the courts and state and federal policies have fallen short in protecting incarcerated women’s reproductive needs. Despite these shortcomings, legislative and grassroots efforts have seen some success in recent years. Part III of this Note examines these successes and the ways in which these efforts have shifted away from a traditional focus on reproductive rights to a more holistic focus on dignity for incarcerated women. It argues that these legislative efforts efforts may bolster constitutional protections by bringing attention to the unique medical needs of female inmates. These trends are positive, and this Note concludes by suggesting that future legislative efforts should build upon the recent success to raise awareness for—and provide solutions to—the unique healthcare problems that incarcerated women face.

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