Cephas and Davis move Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act to the Senate
HARRISBURG, Sept. 19 – State Reps. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., and Tina Davis, D-Bucks, applauded today’s House passage of their bill that would regulate how pregnant people are treated in Pennsylvania’s jails and prisons. The bill is now on its way to the Senate.
The Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, which passed unanimously, would improve visitation rights for incarcerated parents, ban shackling pregnant people and enhance restraint documentation, along with other provisions.
“For years, my peers and I have been fighting to get prenatal, pregnancy and post-natal support to those incarcerated in the Commonwealth. The House passage of this act lifts my soul because it is an act of compassion,” Cephas said. “This legislation (H.B. 1419) would improve the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable constituents and their families. No one should be deprived of respect or be forced to risk their health or their health of their child -- and certainly not on our watch.”
The lawmaker highlighted that the bill also would provide for free period and incontinence products for incarcerated individuals and would allow three days of post-delivery bonding time between mother and newborn child.
“Policies need to be set on how pregnant women are treated in prison,” Davis said. “For far too long, incarcerated pregnant women have been subject to shackling, solitary confinement, full body searches by male guards and been denied bonding time with their babies after birth. The impact of this treatment has been devastating for pregnant women and their infants. This bill would help ensure that pregnant women in our prisons are treated with the dignity which is rightfully theirs.”
Rep. Darisha Parker, D-Phila., celebrated the passage of the Act and reaffirmed her commitment to continue championing women’s right, especially unserved women of color. “The PLBC subcommittee on Women and Girls of Color will always advocate for the dignity and well-being of Black women and girls,” said Parker, who is chair of the subcommittee. “The complete disregard for a birthing person while in an already restrictive situation is cruel and should not be tolerated, ever. We will continue to fight for these rights, as we know they affect Black women disproportionately.”
“For incarcerated women, pregnancy is a stressful time, and a time that no pregnant person should be forced to endure abuses of their body or the disregard for their well-being,” said state Rep. Donna Bullock, who is chair of the PLBC. “This has been an issue the PLBC – specifically the subcommittee on Women and Girls of Color -- has devoted years to making right. We went and listened to the concerns of those women who are incarcerated and are living this scenario every day, and we were determined to make the important changes this legislation makes.”
“This bill would also require the implementation of trauma-informed practices and documentation from all corrections officers interacting with pregnant and postpartum women,” Cephas said. “Advancing this legislation is essential because we urgently need these reforms; we must reestablish humanity behind bars.”