Petition Closed

Tell Allegheny County Not to Let Pregnancy Be a Death Sentence

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

This petition was delivered to:
  • Allegheny County Council, President
    Rich Fitzgerald
  • Allegheny County Council Member
    James Ellenbogen
  • Allegheny County Council Member
    William Russell Robinson
  • 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


Alex DiBranco started this petition with a single signature, and now has 3,730 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.