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Labour MP calls on ministers to end ‘harrowing’ practice of female prisoners forced to give birth without a midwife

Labour MP calls on ministers to end ‘harrowing’ practice of female prisoners forced to give birth without a midwife

Liz Bates

2 min read

Top Labour MP Jess Phillips has called for urgent action from ministers to protect female prisoners forced to give birth behind bars.

According to a new report seen by the Guardian, some inmates have been made to deliver their babies in cells without a midwife present.

The research, done by specialist midwife and senior lecturer Dr Laura Abbott, raised concerns about the level of medical care available to pregnant women in prison.

While births in cells are rare, Dr Abbott documented a handful of examples, noting that in one case no midwife was present when a baby was born prematurely and feet-first, putting both child and mother at risk of complications.  

Labour backbencher Ms Philips described the findings as “harrowing” and called for an urgent government probe into the issue.

She told PoliticsHome: “I'll wager these women were on short sentences that will achieve nothing in the way of rehabilitation whilst exposing them to hideous trauma that even the most hardline wouldn't agree with.

“Giving birth alone without a midwife is something no one should tolerate.

“The MOJ must immediately undertake a safeguarding review of both women and children in their care and must never let this happen again.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Healthcare in prisons is provided by trained medics and nurses, but we have also made training on dealing with pregnant inmates available to all prison officers. 

"Each pregnant prisoner has an individual care plan, while new guidance will make clear they should have access to 24-hour midwifery advice. We know it is extremely rare for a woman to give birth in prison - because every step is taken to get them to hospital - but those unique cases are invariably down to the unpredictability of labour.

“Our new Female Offenders Strategy made clear that we want fewer women serving short sentences in custody and more remaining in the community, making use of women’s centres to address needs such as substance misuse and mental health problems.” 

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