Texas Observer Examines Reproductive Health of Female Immigrants in U.S. Custody
With an in increase sexual assault among female immigrants and the federal "government's increasingly stringent immigration enforcement policies, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement's] treatment of pregnant detainees has become particularly relevant in recent years," the Texas Observer reports.
In 2008, of 10,653 women ICE detained, 965, or nearly 10%, were pregnant, according to agency spokesperson Cori Bassett. Many of those women were pregnant as the result of a sexual assault that occurred en route to the U.S. border. According to the Observer, the Division of Immigration Health Services, an HHS subagency, handles medical services within ICE detention facilities, including requests for abortions. The policy of both ICE and the division is to not fund elective procedures, including abortions, unless "in the event of an emergency situation."
Brigitte Amir, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, said, "Because of the language and cultural barriers, this is a particularly vulnerable population," adding, "There's no understanding of what (reproductive) resources there are, which effectively prohibits access to abortion."
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a bill in 2007 that would prohibit pregnant women from being in ICE custody but it never made it to committee. According to Kerry's office, he anticipates the bill will be reintroduced once a new ICE director is confirmed (Sieff, Texas Observer, 2/20).