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May 15, 2023

Pressley Builds on Advocacy for Incarcerated Pregnant People

Unveils Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act to Improve Maternal Healthcare for Folks Behind the Wall

Bill Text | Bill Summary

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, re-introduced her Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act to improve maternal health care and support for pregnant individuals who are incarcerated. The legislation was re-introduced as part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Package—a suite of 12 bills aimed at addressing the Black maternal health crisis.

The Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act is informed by the People’s Justice Guarantee, Rep. Pressley’s bold vision for transforming the American criminal legal system into one that centers the dignity and humanity of all people.

“Everyone deserves the resources and care necessary to support their pregnancy and postpartum recovery, including those behind the wall,” said Rep. Pressley. “Our bill would create the systems necessary to protect the dignity and humanity of incarcerated pregnant people and enlists them as partners in our fight for justice and equity. I thank Congresswomen Underwood and Adams for their ongoing partnership and once again including the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act in this year’s Momnibus package, and look forward to continuing our work to affirm maternal health justice for all.”

Specifically, the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act would:

  • Encourage states to end the practice of shackling pregnant individuals by tying federal funding eligibility to states that enact anti-shackling laws;
  • Provide funding for programs to create maternal health programs for incarcerated individuals in federal, state, and local prisons and jails, including access to doulas, healthy food and nutrition, mental health and substance use counseling, and strengthening visitation policies;
  • Provide funding for states and localities to set up primary caretaker diversion programs as alternatives to incarceration for pregnant individuals and primary caretakers of minor children; and
  • Create the first-ever comprehensive study to understand the scope of the maternal and infant health crisis among incarcerated individuals.

The legislation was introduced as part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, led by Congresswomen Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Alma Adams (NC-12), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), which makes investments in social determinants of health, community-based organizations, the growth and diversification of the perinatal workforce, improvements in data collection, and support for moms and babies exposed to climate change-related risks. In addition to direct efforts to improve Black maternal health outcomes, the Momnibus focuses on high-risk populations, including veterans, incarcerated people, Native Americans, and other women and birthing people of color.

The Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act is co-sponsored by Reps. Lauren Underwood, Pete Aguilar, Colin Allred, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Joyce Beatty, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Julia Brownley, Nikki Budzinski, Cori Bush, Yadira Caraveo, Salud Carbajal, Andre’ Carson, Troy Carter, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Yvette D. Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Steve Cohen, Angie Craig, Jasmine Crockett, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Valerie Foushee, John Garamendi, Sylvia Garcia, Jesús “Chuy” García, Al Green, Jahana Hayes, Steven Horsford, Jared Huffman, Glenn Ivey, Jonathan L. Jackson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sara Jacobs, Pramila Jayapal, Hank Johnson, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ann McLane Kuster, Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Lucy McBath, Jennifer McClellan, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Gregory W. Meeks, Grace Meng, Kweisi Mfume, Joseph D. Morelle, Seth Moulton, Gwen Moore, Frank J. Mrvan, Kevin Mullin, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chris Pappas, Donald M. Payne Jr., Dean Phillips, Katie Porter, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Andrea Salinas, Mary Gay Scanlon, Adam B. Schiff, Brad Schneider, Hillary Scholten, David Scott, Terri Sewell, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Abigail Spanberger, Melanie Stansbury, Marilyn Strickland, Emilia Sykes, Mark Takano, Bennie Thompson, Rashida Tlaib, Jill Tokuda, Paul Tonko, Norma J. Torres, Lori Trahan, David Trone, Juan Vargas, Marc Veasey, Nydia M. Velázquez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jennifer Wexton, Nikema Williams, Bill Pascrell Jr., Suzan DelBene, and Stephen F. Lynch.

As a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, Congresswoman Pressley has been a longtime champion of maternal health and reproductive justice.

  • Throughout her time in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has convened roundtable meetings with maternal health advocates and practitioners in the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District.
  • In May 2023, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Gwen Moore introduced a resolution recognizing the role doulas play in providing culturally competent maternal health care, addressing racial inequities, and supporting healthier outcomes for mothers and their babies.
  • In December 2022, the House passed Congresswoman Pressley’s amendment to strengthen maternal health care for people who are incarcerated.
  • In September 2022, Rep. Pressley hosted HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra for a convening on their work to address the Black maternal health crisis and the criminalization of abortion care following the Dobbs decision.
  • In November 2021, at a briefing held by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), Congresswoman Pressley delivered testimony on the growing racial disparities in maternal health and the urgent need to combat the Black maternal mortality crisis. Her full testimony at the briefing is available here.
  • In May 2021, she introduced the Healthy MOMMIES Act, to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for pregnant people and expand coverage to include culturally competent and community based doula care.
  • In March 2020, she first introduced  the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act, legislation to improve maternal health care and support for pregnant individuals who are incarcerated, as part of the Momnibus legislative package. 
  • In 2019, she introduced The People’s Justice Guarantee ─ a comprehensive framework to transform the American criminal legal system into one that guarantees justice for all.  She also introduced the Healthy MOMMIES Act with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms from 60-days postpartum to one year.