Report: Pa. prisons have no health care guarantee for women

Though the 3,800 women incarcerated in Pennsylvania are legally entitled to reproductive health care, none of the county jails in the Commonwealth ensure access to such care, according to a report released yesterday by the state’s American Civil Liberties Union.

The report “exposes an uneven patchwork of health care policies in the 57 county jails in Pennsylvania that house women,” according to a statement.

“The lack of clear policies puts the health of thousands of Pennsylvania women at risk,” said director Reggie Shuford in a statement. “In some cases, these policies fail to meet basic constitutional standards, leaving counties legally vulnerable.”

Philadelphia was found to be more progressive than many other counties. Its prisons have a written policy providing for prenatal and postpartum care, though not in the case of miscarriage or abortion. The city also tests female prisoners for pregnancy, allows abortions and is one of only counties two in the state that tests incarcerated women for STDs upon intake.

The report recommended that the state develop a comprehensive, uniform policy on prison reproductive rights, including access to care, testing and gender-specific health screenings, or ensure that all jails follow national guidelines

At a rate of 11.2 percent per year, the incarcerated female population is growing twice as fast annually as the population of jailed men.

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