Women Speak Out about Reproductive Health Care While Incarcerated
Date:  03-31-2015

Substandard care and dehumanizing treatment repeatedly echoed by members of a most vulnerable population—incarcerated women
A gynecological exam is often uncomfortable under the best of circumstances, but for an incarcerated woman it can be a more daunting experience. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that almost 50 percent of females in correctional facilities have self-reported being abused in their lives. Being intimately examined by a healthcare provider who is usually rushed due to a heavy prison patient caseload can bring back traumatic memories while on the opposite end of a speculum.

For those women who have been incarcerated for many years, and have remained sexually inactive, a Pap smear or pelvic exam can be very painful, but that fact is often overlooked by healthcare staff. Older women in prison often refuse intimate exams out of deep-seated generational modesty or because of past painful examinations at the hands of a prison doctor, or nurse.

But there is another more dangerous aspect of reproductive healthcare administered to women behind bars, and that is substandard treatment which can prove to be fatal. Vikki Law interviewed women who were incarcerated in both state and federal facilities and her article sheds light on what is wrong with reproductive healthcare in a correctional setting. Hopefully, the stories women have revealed will inspire an investigation into the poor state of reproductive healthcare among some of our most vulnerable population.

Reproductive Health Care in Women's Prisons "Painful" and "Traumatic"

By Victoria Law, Truthout | Report Friday, 27 March 2015 It was Kim Dadou's second day at New York's Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. As part of the prison's intake process, she was brought to the prison's medical unit for a gynecological exam and pap smear. "We were brought down three or five at a time," she told Truthout. It's like an assembly line. They rush you in and rush you out. That in itself is degrading." To add to that feeling, the gynecologist did not explain what he was doing or why. "He didn't talk to you except 'Open your legs' or 'Scoot down,' " she recalled. As he examined her, however, he commented, "You have a very nice aroma." "I wanted to die," Dadou said nearly 24 years later. "I was like, 'This is prison? This is what I have to look forward to?'"

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