Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal Bill to Allow Pregnant People who are Incarcerated to Have Support Person of Their Choosing During Labor and Delivery Heads to Gov

Bill will also require prisons to provide pregnant persons or nursing mothers with information about in-prison nursing programs & pregnancy counseling and abortion services

New York, NY - Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) today announced that her bill (A.611) to allow pregnant people who are incarcerated to have a support person of their choosing while they labor with and deliver their child has passed both houses and now heads to the Governor. The legislation will also require prisons to provide incarcerated people who are pregnant with information about abortion and pregnancy counseling services, along with information to them and nursing mothers of children under the age of 18 months with information about in-prison nursery programs. 

“My bill, once it is signed into law, will correct a defect in current law that allows State Corrections officials to deny incarcerated people who are going into labor the benefit of a support person of their choosing,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Labor and delivery are physically demanding and emotionally challenging, and regardless of where they are, pregnant people should be surrounded with loved ones to support them through the process, including when they are incarcerated. That ensures the best outcomes for both mother and baby. Healthcare should not be traumatizing, but that’s exactly what formerly incarcerated women have said it is. This vital legislation will help ensure that the labor and delivery environment is safe and supportive.”

According to a survey conducted by the Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project, formerly incarcerated women classified their healthcare experiences in prison as uncomfortable or traumatizing, particularly for those who had experienced sexual assault or domestic violence. Poor prison healthcare is especially detrimental to pregnant people and can have a lasting impact on them and their children.

"We are thrilled that the Assembly and Senate have enacted this legislation and we call on the Governor to sign it into law immediately. The legislation means that no incarcerated person will ever have to go through labor, delivery or recovery alone again, doing away with a needless and cruel practice. There are virtually no circumstances where a person should have to deliver a baby in a carceral setting, or where an infant should be torn away from its parents at birth, and so we urge the legislature to take further action next session to make these a relic of the past as well," said Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners' Rights Project at the Legal Aid Society.

"Incarceration and familial separation are traumatic enough, but to experience labor and delivery alone while incarcerated is something that no human being should endure alone. We are relieved to applaud the passage of A.616 and thank Assemblymember Rosenthal for championing dignity for incarcerated pregnant people. As a mother and as a formerly incarcerated person, I know this bill will offer relief from the harm and trauma done to birthing people and urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law immediately,” said Serena Liguori, Executive Director of New Hour for Women and Children – LI.

“The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence thanks Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Senator Alessandra Biaggi for advancing this critical legislation in the New York State Legislature. Pregnancy can be difficult and arduous, and childbirth even more so. Yet, without this bill, pregnant incarcerated women in New York State are not allowed to have a friend or family member with them during childbirth. In addition, pregnant incarcerated women are not routinely provided information about available supportive services. Every person deserves to be able to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law so that pregnant incarcerated women will be provided necessary pregnancy supports and services as soon as possible,” said Joan Gerhardt, NYSCADV’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy.

“So long as New York state incarcerates birthing people, this bill is an important step in the right direction, as we continue to work towards the ultimate goal of not incarcerating birthing – and all people – to begin with. We must fundamentally shift away from a society that uses incarceration as a response to social and economic problems, to one that addresses harm through an approach that promotes accountability, healing and transformation,” said Miyhosi Benton, Associate Director of Advocacy & Strategy, Women & Justice Project.

Approximately four percent of people incarcerated in state correctional facilities are pregnant. Bedford Hills Correctional Facility allows incarcerated mothers to live with and continue to care for their children for up to 18 months, creating a more positive outcome for both the mother and the child. 

This bill would require that the Chief Medical Officer of the correctional facility notify pregnant persons about their right to receive counseling services, including information about their right to pregnancy termination services and their ability to apply to the Children's Center Program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision currently forbids incarcerated women in labor from having a support person with them during childbirth. Childbirth is physically demanding and emotionally challenging, and this legislation will afford pregnant persons the right to designate at least one support person of their choosing to accompany them throughout the labor and delivery process.