Female permanent contraception policies and occurrence at a sample of U.S. prisons and jails



      Incarcerated individuals have an unmet need for contraception, yet have also been subject to coercive permanent contraception practices. Data do not exist on prison and jail policies around access to permanent contraception or how often it occurs among women in custody. We sought to describe permanent and reversible contraception policies at U.S carceral institutions and the frequency of these procedures.

      Study Design

      We surveyed a convenience sample of 22 state prison systems and 6 county jails from 2016 to 2017 about female permanent contraception and reversible contraception policies. In addition, 10 prisons and 4 jails reported 6 months of monthly data on the number of postpartum permanent contraception procedures performed on women who gave birth in custody. We analyzed results for descriptive statistics.


      Eleven prisons (50%) and 5 jails (83%) permitted female permanent contraception; 7 of these prisons and 3 of these jails allowing permanent contraception did not have a written policy about it. Six prisons and no jails provided access to permanent but not reversible contraception. Over 6 months, 3 women from 2 prisons and 4 women at 2 jails received postpartum permanent contraception.


      The majority of prisons and jails in our study allowed incarcerated women to have permanent contraception in custody, often without formalized policies in place. Postpartum permanent contraception occurred during the study period. Given the inherent lack of autonomy of incarceration and history of sterilization abuses in this marginalized group, policy-makers should advance policies that avoid coercive permanent contraception and increase access to reversible contraception in carceral settings.


      Many carceral institutions permit women to undergo permanent contraception but provide no access to reversible contraception; this practice raises concern for compromised autonomy and further reproductive marginalization of a group with limited access to quality reproductive health care.


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