Do Pregnant Inmates have a Constitutional Right to Opioid Replacement Therapy?

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Changes in the national drug laws have resulted in a marked increase in the number of individuals who have been incarcerated in the United States over the past several decades; women have not been exempt from this trend. Incarcerated women who are pregnant and at risk of experiencing opioid withdrawal often lack access to opioid replacement therapy while in jails and prisons, although this treatment is necessary to prevent significant acute withdrawal that can be detrimental to maternal-fetal health. I contend that pregnant inmates who are at risk of experiencing opioid withdrawal possess a constitutional right to receive opioid replacement therapy while incarcerated and that failure to provide this treatment represents a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

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