Gov. Martinez Pocket Vetoes Bills to Help Incarcerated Women
Today is a sad day for pregnant and lactating women behind bars and their babies. Two bills regarding pregnant prisoners have suffered a quiet death.
Governor Susana Martinez had ten days to sign House Bill 277, which would require correctional facilities to adopt breastfeeding policies and Senate Bill 277, which would oblige the court to consider pregnancy status when sentencing. SB 277 would allow the mother be released prior to her baby’s birth and up to 18 months after her baby is born, or as long as medically necessary.
Martinez neither signed nor vetoed the bills resulting in an automatic veto of both. While a veto comes with a message about why the Governor did not sign the bill, a pocket veto comes with no such explanation.
Trini Encinias who takes care of her incarcerated daughter’s baby was disappointed. “Who would want to go through nine months of being pregnant and have to give their baby to someone else?” she said. Encinias said inmates are mistreated whether they are pregnant or not, and incarcerated mothers, separated from their infants, brew in anger.
Albuquerque Democratic Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino said Martinez’s decision not to act on these bills is “disgusting,” and kids of incarcerated parents will be more likely to grow up and commit crimes because they never had the chance to bond with their parents. “She does not want to help people who are convicted or their families in any way. She just wants to punish,” he said.
Both bills passed the House and Senate on March 18. The HB 277 passed unanimously. The release of pregnant women bill passed the Senate 33-6 and the House 42-18. Governor Martinez had until today to sign these bills into law.