Petition Closed

Thrown in jail for getting pregnant? That seems like a particularly absurd violation of women's reproductive rights. But it's actually an established policy in Allegheny County, PA: for Amy Lynn Gillespie, becoming pregnant meant violating the terms of her work release probation, and getting thrown in jail. Yet this story comes to an even more tragic ending, because Gillespie died while in custody from advanced pneumonia.

Gillespie's grieving mother has decided not to let the people who allowed her daughter to die off the hook: she has a lawsuit against the Allegheny County jail warden, Allegheny Correctional Health Services Inc., the country itself, and a few other implicated individuals charging that medical neglect caused Gillespie's death. Though the young woman spent weeks complaining to guards of trouble breathing and mucus in her lungs, they refused to send her for medical care until it was too late. The hospital, which is not charged in the lawsuit, says that Gillespie was beyond saving due to the long delay in getting her treatment.

To imprison a woman for becoming pregnant is a violation of her human rights, and should not be a condition of work release. To then neglect her, when the very pregnant condition she was locked up for meant that she needed extra attention, is horrifying. The crimes that got her in trouble with the law in the first place were minor shoplifting (when caught stealing food, she told the police officer she was hungry) and prostitution (which, though illegal, hurts nobody). Amy Lynn Gillespie's unnecessary death is nothing short of tragic, and highlights deep flaws with the Allegheny County prison system.

New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice is organizing to call attention to Gillespie's case.

You can help to protect women's reproductive rights and health by signing this petition telling Allegheny County to remove pregnancy as a work release violation and improve oversight of medical treatment in its jail.

Photo credit: J.K. Califf

Letter to
Allegheny County Council, President Rich Fitzgerald
Allegheny County Council Member James Ellenbogen
Allegheny County Council Member William Russell Robinson
and 13 others
Allegheny County Council Member Robert J. Macey
Allegheny County Council Member Nicholas Futules
Allegheny County Council Member Joan Cleary
Allegheny County Council Member Vince Gastgeb
Allegheny County Council Member Michael J. Finnerty
Allegheny County Council Member James Burn, Jr.
Allegheny County Council Member Jan Rea
Allegheny County Council Member Matt Drozd
Allegheny County Council Member Chuck McCullough
Allegheny County Council Member John DeFazio
Director of Legislative Services, Allegheny County Jared Barker
Allegheny County Council, Vice President Dr. Charles Martoni
Allegheny County Council Member Amanda Green Hawkins
For Amy Lynn Gillespie, becoming pregnant meant violating the terms of her work release, and getting thrown in jail. And this story comes to an even more tragic ending, because 27-year-old Gillespie died while in custody from advanced pneumonia.

Though the young woman spent weeks complaining to guards of trouble breathing and mucus in her lungs, they refused to send her for medical care until it was too late. The hospital says that Gillespie was beyond saving due to the long delay in getting her treatment.

Gillespie shouldn't have been in jail to begin with: to imprison a woman for becoming pregnant is a violation of her human rights, and should not be a condition of work release. To then neglect her, when the very pregnant condition she was locked up for meant that she needed extra attention, is horrifying.

The crimes that got her in trouble with the law in the first place were minor shoplifting (when caught stealing food, she told the police officer she was hungry) and prostitution (which, though illegal, hurts nobody). Amy Lynn Gillespie's unnecessary death is nothing short of tragic, and highlights deep flaws with the Allegheny County prison system.

New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice is organizing to call attention to Gillespie's case. I ask you to take action to make certain that no other young women end up in Gillespie's situation, put an end to discriminatory policies that violate women's reproductive rights, and improve medical oversight in the county jail.

Please help to protect women's reproductive rights and health by passing legislation to remove pregnancy as a work release violation and implement stricter policies on proper access to medical treatment in the Allegheny County jail.