Lived experiences of pregnancy and prison through a reproductive justice lens: A qualitative meta-synthesis
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As rates with which women are incarcerated have risen around the world, research examining how incarceration affects the health of people who are pregnant, their newborns, and their family members has burgeoned. Lived experience is seldom accounted for in this research, however, highlighting a gap with relevance to advocates, policy makers, researchers, and practitioners seeking to better understand health inequities and redress human suffering. In this paper we present a qualitative meta-synthesis of 31 papers reporting qualitative studies of how people who are incarcerated in prisons and jails around the world experience pregnancy, labour and childbirth, and the postpartum period. Theoretical perspectives from the reproductive justice and prison abolition movements guided our analysis, which identified connectedness (to baby) and disconnectedness (from support) as twinned themes characterizing the lived experiences of navigating pregnancy in a carceral institution. We argue that the conditions of reproductive justice - including self-determination in pregnancy, in parenting, and in managing one's reproductive capacity - are fundamentally irreconcilable with mass incarceration. We conclude by considering the strategic opportunities for health practitioners and researchers to support the movement for prison abolition by mobilizing health-focused arguments for decarceration.
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