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Published: October 19, 2020

Promoting Reproductive Justice for Incarcerated and Detained Individuals at the COD

At the recent annual American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Congress of Delegates (COD), physician delegate members from across the country approved a resolution submitted by the California chapter calling for the AAFP to advocate for national policy that improves reproductive healthcare for incarcerated and detained individuals.

While the AAFP already has policy that supports access to healthcare for incarcerated and detained people, the CAFP felt it was important to highlight reproductive health care because of the clear evidence of inadequate care in this area. Recently, a number of reputable news sources reported on allegations of substandard medical care and harmful practices at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Georgia.  These allegations include reports that multiple detained women underwent unnecessary hysterectomies without full informed consent.

In their testimony before the COD, the California delegation emphasized that these alleged events were just another example of a long history of institutionalized reproductive oppression disproportionately affecting black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) in our nation’s carceral and detention systems. The California AAFP delegation also discussed a need for access to non-directive and comprehensive options counseling for pregnant people. Noting that informed consent is a fundamental principle in the ethical practice of medicine, options counseling—which includes advising a patient of all of their treatment options, is informed consent in the setting of a pregnancy.  Finally, the delegation discussed how abortion access is often denied for people who are detained, and failing to make all legal medical options available is in itself a form of reproductive coercion. The delegation called upon the AAFP to take a clear stance to ensure that all people have access to the full range of legal, evidence-based healthcare. After robust discussion, the resolution passed.

The California delegation’s testimony was deeply impactful and reflected the CAFP’s national leadership. The CAFP recognizes our nation’s long history of violations of the human rights of BIPOC and the particularly egregious legacy of forced sterilization, gynecological experimentation, and other reproductive rights abuses perpetuated by the very systems and institutions that should protect vulnerable populations. These shameful practices allow medical care to be weaponized and used as a tool for racial violence.

Family physicians treat incarcerated people, immigrants, and refugees every day. The CAFP affirms all people’s right to self-determination and opposes the neglect and mistreatment of marginalized communities. The CAFP stands with detainees at immigration facilities and people who are incarcerated and will continue to use its voice to promote a more just and equitable society.

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