Miscarriage rates among pregnant undocumented immigrants in U.S. custody nearly doubled during President Donald Trump’s first two years in office, a government review of records has found.
According to The Daily Beast, after a woman’s six-month pregnancy ended with the stillbirth of her baby boy last month, lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the administration’s policies, which they fear are exacerbating the situation.
In a statement, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), chair of the Hispanic Caucus, said, “We have heard several alarming stories of pregnant women receiving inadequate medical care and even miscarrying while in [Department of Homeland Security] custody.”
He continued: “These tragedies make one thing very clear: ICE and [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] should not be detaining expectant mothers in poor conditions, and the practice of detaining these women is inhumane and inconsistent with our values as Americans. We must examine the circumstances of the unfortunate and disturbing loss of this mother’s child.”
The review of medical records conducted by ICE found that as of August 2018, 18 migrant women might have suffered a miscarriage just prior to or while in ICE custody; from October 2016 to September 2017, the number of miscarriages was 10.
The Daily Beast noted that the data does not account for miscarriages or stillbirths migrant women experience while held by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
This uptick in poor outcomes for pregnant migrant women coincides with Trump’s reversal of an Obama administration policy that did not permit ICE to detain pregnant women, “absent extraordinary circumstances.”
The Trump administration’s decision, part of its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, caused outrage among medical professionals, who hold the view that detention is not appropriate for pregnant women.
Dr. Alan Shapiro, pediatrician and co-founder of Terra Firma, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care to undocumented children, said detaining any pregnant woman is problematic.
“Detention in and of itself can be quite traumatizing and stressful, and anything that triggers stress hormones can lead to negative outcomes in pregnancy for herself and for the fetus,” Shapiro said.
He added that, “Things can go bad very quickly, so you can see a woman begin to develop high blood pressure—which that would need very immediate attention—and that woman might not receive that attention in a timely fashion.”
In the most recent case, which saw a 24-year-old Honduran woman lose her child at 27 weeks, the woman was four days into her detention when she initially complained of abdominal pains.
ICE officials said she “conveyed that the baby was coming” at that time, but the baby was born before emergency medical services arrived, and the baby boy was unresponsive upon arrival.
Days after the stillbirth, ICE reported the incident to the public, noting that “a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death.”