Cruz: We must do more to ensure dignity for incarcerated pregnant and postpartum individuals

Cruz to introduce legislation that would prohibit all body cavity searches of pregnant and postpartum inmates unless performed by a licensed medical professional

HARRISBURG, Aug. 12 – State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Human Services Committee, is introducing legislation that would prohibit all body cavity searches of pregnant and postpartum inmates unless performed by a licensed medical professional.

“All intimate body searches can be degrading, even humiliating, due to their intrusive nature. However, for pregnant and postpartum incarcerated people, body cavity searches can be harmful if carried out by a correctional employee without medical training,” Cruz said. “While it is sometimes necessary to conduct invasive searches of these vulnerable individuals, my legislation would ensure that they should only be performed by trained and authorized health care professionals.”

By mandating that only licensed medical professionals may conduct these invasive procedures, Cruz’s bill would ensure greater care and safety for the incarcerated pregnant and postpartum population. This legislation would also provide a method to track compliance with the law and detect patterns of unwarranted searches among commonwealth jails and prisons.

“Our nation, including our commonwealth, is in the wake of a maternal mortality crisis and subjecting incarcerated pregnant people to situations that are harmful to them and their unborn child exacerbates this devasting crisis,” said Cruz.

Cruz’s bill would call for correctional employees to conduct searches only in extreme instances such as concealing contraband that presents an immediate threat of harm to themselves, the unborn child, staff, or other inmates. However, correctional employees who are non-licensed medical professionals would need to prepare a written report within 72 hours of the search detailing reasons why a search was conducted and list any contraband found.