Speed Reads


Detained pregnant women are being denied care, roughly handled, and shackled around the belly, BuzzFeed News investigation finds

Last December, the Trump administration quietly reversed an Obama-era directive that prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from detaining pregnant women except in extreme cases, altering the policy to prevent holding only women in their third trimester. "We provide [detained pregnant women] with prenatal care, we provide them separate housing, we provide them specialists, we will take them to appointments if they need to go somewhere else, we provide them counseling," said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in May. Yet in a disturbing investigation published Monday, BuzzFeed News has found that to not be the case, detailing the stories of several women who say they were ignored, roughly handled, shackled around the belly, and denied urgent medical care — even as they were miscarrying their children.

Jennye Mariel Pagoada Lopez, 24, said one night she got so sick that a fellow detainee was forced to scream and wave at a security camera to get her help — but the officials who arrived still refused to get her to a doctor, despite her heavy bleeding. It took five days for a medical professional to perform an exam without an ultrasound, and two days after that to tell her she had miscarried. The bleeding still did not stop: "They were refusing to give me sanitary towels, I needed like 30 per day and we were given three per day," said Pagoada. "They told me I could buy more in the commissary."

"I can't even say how painful it is to be there without help, without support, and with the pain of having lost something so precious," said Rubia Mabel Morales Alfaro, another mother who miscarried and who calls the assurances of care promised by Nielsen a "lie."

Virginia Sushila Schwerin, a midwife who volunteers at a clinic that serves migrants, added: "Pregnant women have highly specialized needs and this is a high-risk group. I think it's inhumane to detain them." Read more at BuzzFeed News.