Document Type



Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law


Prenatal healthcare services available to pregnant inmates in state prisons are wholly inadequate. Despite the glaring shortcomings of state prisons’ healthcare services, there has still only been limited attention paid to rectifying the problem. This lack of attention is problematic for many reasons, but especially because the number of women in prisons has increased in recent decades and inmates who are pregnant when they arrive to prison face conditions that risk extreme health condition.

Not only are pregnant inmates subjected to inadequate healthcare services, but they also have very few legal remedies available to them when they have been deprived of adequate healthcare services. The primary legal tool available to women who experience a deprivation of healthcare services while pregnant in prison is to file a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, rooted in the Federal Civil Rights Act. Claimants can use this statutory provision to bring lawsuits against individuals or entities that have violated their federal rights, set out in federal codes and the U.S. Constitution, while acting under color of state law. However, it can be particularly challenging for women to make strong claims under § 1983. Since there is a lack of judicial clarity about what actually constitutes adequate and essential medical care, it is difficult for claimants to make convincing legal claims rooted in violations of the law.

This Note begins by exploring the need for improvements in the healthcare available to pregnant inmates through the lens of Laboy v. Semple, a case filed in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. It then describes how pregnant inmates can make a claim under § 1983 when they have been deprived of adequate healthcare services, while noting the shortcomings and effectiveness of the various forms of § 1983 claims. This Note concludes by offering solutions to remedy both the inadequate healthcare services available in state prisons and the inadequate recovery avenues available to affected women.