Estalyn Marquis

“Nothing Less Than the Dignity of Man”: Women Prisoners, Reproductive Health, and Unequal Access to Justice Under the Eighth Amendment

Much of the literature on women prisoners’ inadequate access to healthcare has focused on the relative rarity of women in prison before the age of mass incarceration. This may explain why prisons initially were poorly equipped to provide healthcare to women, but the gendered nature of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has allowed prisons to remain so. This Note argues the Supreme Court’s standard for prisoners’ claims of inadequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment denies women equal access to justice in the wake of inadequate reproductive healthcare. By implicitly requiring that women prisoners compare their medical needs to those of men, the current standard for evaluating prisoners’ claims of inadequate medical care, though gender-neutral on its face, creates barriers for women that do not exist for men. In the context of reproductive healthcare, this requirement presents an often-insurmountable obstacle for women prisoners seeking justice under the Eighth Amendment.

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