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Two Bills Each Pass One Branch - Health Disparities; and No Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners

Two Bills Each Pass One Branch - Health Disparities; and No Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners

March 23, 2014

Two important bills each passed one branch of the state legislature last week. Now it's up to the other branch to finish the job.

First is legislation addressing racial and ethnic health disparities. On March 20, H. 3888 passed the House and was sent to the Senate.

Health Care For All has long supported this legislation, working with a broad coalition of disparities advocates in the Disparities Action Network to draft the bill back in 2009. In addition to creating a permanent Office of Health Equity in state government focused on health disparities, the bill would create a framework for a comprehensive approach to health disparities. The approach encompasses all the activities of state government, such as housing, transportation, education and economic development. It requires that each state budget submission identify major state initiatives that affect health and health care, and their impact on health disparities. It also calls for an annual report card on progress in reducing disparities.

On the same day, the Senate passed S. 2063, "An Act to prevent shackling and promote safe pregnancies for female inmates." Shackling pregnant women is unsafe, unnecessary, and inhumane. HCFA has worked closely with the Massachusetts Anti-Shackling Coalition, led by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and other groups to put an end to the practice of a woman from being shackled during pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery recuperation unless she presents a specific safety or flight risk. While Governor Patrick issued regulations in February, he and the coalition have supported legislation to codify the standard into permanent law. 

The statement by HCFA's Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer was cited by the State House News Service in their report on the passage of the bill by the Senate:

“Women in prison are more likely to have high-risk pregnancies, as they are less likely to have access to regular health care prior to being incarcerated,” says Health Care For All Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer. “The Anti-Shackling Bill would reduce the risks and associated costs for pregnant women in our jails and prison by requiring basic medical standards like prenatal and postpartum care, access to health-related information, counseling and dietary needs.”

We urge the House to move quickly on the anti-shackling bill, and the Senate to move quickly on the disparities proposal.
   - Brian Rosman