Semin Reprod Med 2022; 40(05/06): 264-267
DOI: 10.1055/s-0042-1758481
Review Article

The Intersection of Abortion and Criminalization: Abortion Access for People in Prisons

Martha J. Paynter
1   Faculty of Nursing, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada
Wendy V. Norman
2   Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
3   Faculty of Public Health & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
› Author Affiliations


Most incarcerated women are of reproductive age, and more than a third of women will have an abortion during their reproductive years. Although women are the fastest growing population in Canadian prisons, no one has studied the effect of their incarceration on access to abortion services. Studies outside of Canada indicate rates of abortion are higher among people experiencing incarceration than in the general population, and that abortion access is often problematic. Although international standards for abortion care among incarcerated populations exist, there conversely appear to be no Canadian guidelines or procedures to facilitate unintended pregnancy prevention or management. Barriers to abortion care inequitably restrict people with unintended pregnancy from attaining education and employment opportunities, cause entrenchment in violent relationships, and prevent people from choosing to parent when they are ready and able. Understanding and facilitating equitable access to abortion care for incarcerated people is critical to address structural, gender-, and race-based reproductive health inequities, and to promote reproductive justice. There is an urgent need for research in this area to direct best practices in clinical care and support policies capable to ensure equal access to abortion care for incarcerated people.

Publication History

Article published online:
19 December 2022

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