According to a report from The Arizona Republic, the Arizona Department of Corrections is inducing the labor of pregnant prisoners against their will. The newspaper spoke with three women incarcerated at the Perryville prison in Buckeye, Arizona.
Research has shown labor can be induced safely at 39 weeks of gestation if it is an elective procedure. Health care experts say labor can be induced safely before 39 weeks if there is a medical reason to do so.
Medical records reviewed by the paper show two of the women had their labor induced at 39 weeks gestation last year. The third was induced in the 37th week of gestation on two separate occasions during separate incarcerations in 2020 and 2022.
All three prisoners said they were told by prison medical providers that inducing labor was a policy of the Arizona Department of Corrections for all pregnant incarcerated women. They told the paper they believe the policy is being implemented to reduce liability for the prison system.
“I felt like I was viewed as a liability and walking around a prison yard nine months pregnant didn’t comfort this state institution,” one of the women told the paper.
Another added, “They just told me that someone on a different yard a few years ago went into labor in their cell, and had their baby in the cell, and that’s why they induce everyone now.”
In 2019, attorneys from the Prison Law Office and ACLU documented an instance of a seriously mentally ill woman giving birth, alone, in the toilet of her cell at Perryville. The attorneys found the woman had been sent to the hospital after her water broke, only to be returned to the prison for unknown reasons. It was unclear if that was the story being referenced in the previous quote.
The Arizona Department of Corrections did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the paper. NaphCare, the state’s prison health care contractor, denied having a policy of forced inductions.