Skip to Content

History of Legislative Protections for Pregnant People

February 4, 2023

Prior to Texas Jail Project's organizing and legislative advocacy in 2008, pregnant people were a largely invisible population in the state's county jails. No data was being collected or essential prenatal care provided. A brief history of how the current protections and rights were won.

Topics:   Pregnancy

Texas Jail Project co-Founders at an advocacy event in 2008.
Left to Right: Col. Ann Wright, Diana Claitor, Diane Wilson, Krish Gundu

In 2008, Texas Jail Project proposed the first laws addressing care of pregnant people in county jails because of outcries from the public about poor treatment. At that point, there was no data about the number of pregnant people being arrested or acknowledgement of their needs in the minimum jail standards. TJP contacted Rep. Marisa Marquez and brought witnesses to the legislature to speak about their experiences and in 2009, the laws were passed and signed by the governor. One required collection of data on number of pregnant people being booked into county jails and prenatal care including appropriate nutrition, and the second restricting the use of restraints during labor, childbirth, or post natal. Texas was the 19th state to pass an anti-shackling law.

As a result of one of those laws, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) is mandated to collect and post a monthly tally of incarcerated pregnant people on its website. Each month, all county jails are required to report the number of pregnant people booked in or found to be pregnant, to the TCJS. That tally then appears on the TCJS website under “Population Reports.” Usually the tally runs from 300 to 400. While some people are only held in jail a few days, others may be incarcerated for weeks and months, and a small percentage will deliver their babies while in the custody of the jail. Click here and look at the last item on the list. On December 1, 2018, the number of pregnant women booked into all Texas jails during November was 314. As of Aug 1st, 2022, that number was 434.

While awareness and conditions have improved, pregnant people continue to complain about lack of medical care and inadequate food, and we have discovered that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has not always monitored standards for improved care of pregnant people and in other cases, we were unable to discover whether inspectors interviewed women after childbirth to find out if they were shackled.

Shackling complicates childbirth, risking the health of the child. On June 12, 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated in a letter supporting a federal ban on shackling: “[p]hysical restraints have interfered with the ability of physicians to safely practice medicine by reducing their ability to assess and evaluate the physical condition of the mother and the fetus, and have similarly made the labor and delivery process more difficult that is needs to be; thus, overall putting the health and lives of the women and unborn children at risk.

More specific standards for pregnant people are necessary to ensure healthy birth outcomes. The 240* county jails in Texas have a wide array of gaps in the health needs of pregnant people. In many jails, pregnant people don’t have access to a obstetrician/gynecologist. In many others, there is not even a physician available, but an RN or other health professional provides all medical care. There is not even one standardized formulary of medicines, so access to specific prescription medicine is not guaranteed. More state-wide standards could ensure the better outcomes for infants and mothers.

Our Legislative Work on Behalf of Pregnant People


  • HB 3653 – bans shackling of pregnant people during labor and delivery in Texas county jails, with an exception for dangerous circumstances.
  • HB 3654 – requires Texas jails establish basic standards and report on pregnant people through the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. In 2009, there were are 247 jails in Texas housing roughly 13,000 women, inspected by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, and funded by taxpayer dollars. The Justice Department estimated about 5% of female prisoners are pregnant while incarcerated, giving Texas an estimated 650 incarcerated pregnant people in county jails at any one time. This bill was the first to require reporting that allows Texas jails and policymakers to tailor policy to address the health of incarcerated pregnant people and their children.


  • HB 1140 – In 2015, we worked on another successful bill. It required the Jail Commission to send a questionnaire to each jail asking for details of food, medical care, and conditions for pregnant people. It was important to ask these questions because jails, like prisons, were originally designed around the needs and habits of men, not women, and certainly not pregnant people.


  • HB 1140 Report to the Texas Legislature – Texas Commission on Jail Standards issued a report about the answers to the questionnaire in late 2016. Among all the information gathered, the answers revealed that nutrition and medical care was varied, including the fact that in some county jails, there was no access to an ob/gyn or any medical personnel trained in high risk pregnancies.
Rep. Celia Israel with Texas Jail Project founders Col. Ann Wright, Diana Claitor, Diane Wilson, Krish Gundu) and supporters at 10th Anniversary Celebration


  • HB 1314 (Proposed but did not pass) – PR Bond for Pregnant People – authored by Rep. Celia Israel, this bill requires a county magistrate (judge) to release a pregnant person on a personal bond instead of cash bail, unless there is good cause for detention.


  • HB 1651 – Requiring OB/GYN care for pregnant inmates and recognition of labor with immediate transport to the hospital and restricting shackling of women in labor and delivery. This bill also mandated the creation of an annual report by Texas Commission on Jail Standards on the use of restraints on pregnant people in county jails. The first report was published on April 9, 2021. As per the report “In 2020, there were one hundred seventy-six incidents in which a pregnant inmate was restrained in thirty-six different counties.”


  • HB 1307  – Requiring mental health counseling and OB/GYN checks for pregnant people in county jails following a physical or a sexual assault. Texas Jail Project is currently part of the TCJS rulemaking committee to translate the bill into administrative code.

If your loved one is pregnant in a Texas county jail, you want them to have the best possible care. If you believe your loved one is not receiving proper medical care and/or nutrition, or if you have questions about navigating the system please visit our Get Help page for information and resources.

If you yourself have experienced being pregnant in a county jail, Texas Jail Project wants to know about the conditions and any problems you might have had or observed. Please email us at

We know that some people don’t know where to report the problems and others who are afraid to report. We are here to listen and help you tell your story in your own voice. We can also record and report what happened without your name being involved. Also, please let us know about any jail where a pregnant woman receives good health care and is treated well!

Texas Jail Project Media

Other Recommended Reading

*as of Feb 1, 2023

Translate »
Back to top