5 things you've probably never considered about being pregnant while in prison.

As Americans, we have inherited some pretty huge problems with our criminal justice system.

People of color face incarceration at disproportionate rates compared to white people, and many people go to jail or prison when they should be getting mental health treatment instead.

A lot of these problems remain under the radar because for many Americans, prisons are out of sight and out of mind. Lately, thanks to the hard work of activists, filmmakers like Ava Duvernay, and other advocates, criminal justice reform has been in the spotlight.


But there are still plenty of injustices that take place behind the walls of prisons and jails that we don’t talk about enough.

A prime example? The way most pregnant people are treated when they are incarcerated.

Here are five things you may not know about being pregnant and incarcerated.

1. Thousands of incarcerated women are pregnant, and access to prenatal healthcare in prison is abysmal.

There’s no official, comprehensive data on how many people in prison are going through pregnancy. But what we do know is that there are 210,000 women who are currently incarcerated, and the vast majority of them are of reproductive age. The ACLU estimates that around 12,000 of these women are pregnant.

People in prison, pregnant or not, receive inadequate healthcare, but pregnancy exacerbates the need for quality, holistic healthcare and support — especially for people who are facing high-risk pregnancies. Unfortunately, many incarcerated women lack access to healthcare providers who are trained in obstetrics and gynecology, and one report found that almost half of pregnant inmates don’t get any prenatal care at all.

2. There are huge barriers to getting an abortion while incarcerated.

Your right to have an abortion doesn’t disappear when you go to jail, but for many women in prison, there are huge barriers to ending a pregnancy. Often, healthcare providers in jail and prison don’t inform their patients about their termination options. Many incarcerated women have had to go to court to secure access to abortion, but even more have been forced to continue their pregnancies.

3. Pregnant women who are incarcerated often have to deal with dehumanizing, dangerous practices like shackling.

Historically, pregnant inmates have been subjected to degrading practices like being shackled — even during labor. Although many states have now outlawed this practice, six states have no regulations that protect pregnant and birthing women — and their babies — from harmful physical restraints.

If you’ve ever seen anyone in labor, you know how huge of a problem this is. Laboring women need freedom of movement to work through their contractions, and their healthcare professionals need to be able to step in quickly in emergency situations. It’s a matter of safety, and it’s a matter of dignity.

4. Giving birth while incarcerated can be a nightmare.

Feeling supported, safe, and respected during birth can turn a challenging, scary experience into a positive one. Unfortunately, many women who give birth while incarcerated are denied even the most basic accommodations and support. Incarcerated women often aren’t given the opportunity to make decisions about their birth plans. Recently, one Texas woman went into labor prematurely while she was in a jail cell — and guards refused to assist her until her baby was born. These scenarios are unacceptable.

5. Mothers are separated from their newborns almost immediately.

Most prisons only allow mothers to stay with their newborns for 24 hours before the child is removed to be placed with relatives or in foster care. These abrupt separations can cause serious health issues for the baby, and unsurprisingly, can be emotionally devastating for the mom.

The bottom line is that the way we deal with pregnant and laboring mothers in prison is simply not working.

It’s inhumane, unhealthy, and traumatic.

The good news is that there are people who are fighting hard to make real, tangible improvements for incarcerated moms.

One program in Indiana has established a nursery so incarcerated moms can take care of their newborns, bond with them, and avoid the trauma of separation. Studies have found that the kids in these types of programs face fewer mental health problems, and the moms are less likely to return to prison.

Reproductive justice organizations like SisterSong are fighting hard to make sure that shackling pregnant inmates is a horrifying practice that we leave in the past.

The only women’s prison in Minnesota has partnered with a nonprofit that provides incarcerated pregnant people with doulas for their pregnancy and birth. The program has significantly reduced C-section rates among women who participate in the program.

And Black Lives Matter has partnered with organizations across the country for National Black Mamas Bailout Day, which raises money to bail black women out of jail for Mother’s Day. About 200 moms have been bailed out thanks to their efforts.

The root of the problem — the discriminatory, dehumanizing practices that make up our prison system — still exists. But these efforts show that we can make real change if we refuse to accept injustice.

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The 2013 documentary "Blackfish" shined a light on the cruelty that orcas face in captivity has created a sea change in the public's perception of SeaWorld and other marine life parks.

This "Blackfish" backlash nearly deep-sixed SeaWorld and led Canada to pass a law that bans oceanariums from breeding whales and dolphins or holding them in captivity. Animals currently being held in Canada's marine parks are allowed to remain as well as those taken in for rehabilitation.

Podcaster and MMA announcer Joe Rogan saluted Canada's decision on a recent episode.

"First of all, what assholes are we that we have those goddman things in captivity? A big fucking shout out to Canada because [they] mostly through the noise that my friend Phil Demers has created in trying to get MarineLand shut down," Rogan told his guest, economist and mathematician Eric Weinstein.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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