For many years, abortion providers have been appalled at the treatment of imprisoned pregnant women. Our efforts to have dignity restored to those women while in hospital giving birth have begun to see results. Today PA agreed that it was both unnecessary and dangerous to have women shackled during labor and delivery, being the tenth state to do so. Those of you who have gone through delivery yourselves can only imagine how much more painful it must be with your arms and legs in chains.
Abortion clinics, being pro-choice, have long championed a woman's right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy or not. Incarcerated women are guaranteed that right too, but often receiving adequate prenatal care is difficult. Getting an abortion can be even more so, with some states refusing to provide transportation for medical appointments as required by law, or delaying the permission until it's too late for her to have an abortion, only to have her child taken from her at the moment of birth.
We will continue our efforts in the remaining 40 states until all pregnant women can be treated with respect and deliver their babies safely. We will also continue to defend the right of an imprisoned woman to have access to abortion if she thinks that is best.
Breaking News: Pennsylvania Passes Law against Shackling Pregnant Women
Today, the Pennsylvania Legislature gave final approval to a bill that restricts the shackling of pregnant women in jail or prison; it now goes to the governor for his signature. The bill prohibits using restraints on pregnant women when they are being taken to a medical facility, in labor, and after giving birth, absent “extraordinary” circumstances.
As these developments demonstrate, recognition is growing that restraining women in labor and childbirth is both cruel and unnecessary, given that corrections officers or jail deputies are always with women during their hospital stay. The American Medical Association and American Bar Association recently made clear their opposition to the practice of restraining women who are in labor, following the American Public Health Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and a host of women’s rights, human rights, and health organizations.
When it comes time to go on record and cast a vote, almost every legislator has voted in support of these measures. Yet, as is so often the case with social policy in the U.S., shackling women in labor is a problem that has primarily been tackled state by state, which means there is still a long way to go to ensure that all women in custody can give birth safely and with dignity.