Shackled While Giving Birth

I came across this atrocity on the ACLU blog a month or so ago. Appallingly, female inmates who are sent to the hospital to give birth are often shackled to the hospital beds to prevent escape. This practice is ridiculous as it harms both the women giving birth and her unborn child as childbirth should be a dynamic process and not just a passive one with a mother lying still on the bed (though most birthing women in the United States are often “shackled” with electronic fetal monitors and such).

As one woman subjected to this torture articulates, “Like I was going to go anywhere.” (I could not have put it any better). Where do they think these women are going to go??

One inmate, in prison for shoplifting, recalls:
“Because I was shackled to the bed, they couldn’t remove the lower part of the bed for the delivery, and they couldn’t put my feet in the stirrups. My feet were still shackled together, and I couldn’t get my legs apart. The doctor called for the officer, but the officer had gone down the hall. No one else could unlock the shackles, and my baby was coming but I couldn’t open my legs.”

Another describes her birth experience as “…so humiliating. My ankles were raw… I had shackles on up until the baby was coming out and then they took them off for me to push…It was unbelievable.”

What’s more, after the babies are born they are often taken away immediately, preventing breastfeeding and early bonding between mother and child leading to an array of health and psychological issues for both for years to come.

Only three states have laws prohibiting the shackling of birthing prison inmates. Yet another reason to have women in decision-making positions. Some may say that these women are getting what they deserve for committing crimes, winding up in prison, and getting pregnant while in prison. On the other hand though, aren’t they women and mothers and humans and deserve some dignity? What’s more, some women in custody end up there by circumstances beyond their control. The ACLU reports that “the U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which increasingly detains immigrant women who have never committed a crime, has refused to specifically end the use of restraints on pregnant women.”

For more information about shackling practices, click here.

While we read about the violations against women in nations all over the world, let’s not forget that they occur in our community as well. Refuse to ignore our own system’s discrimination against women. Refuse to remain silent about this discrimination.

—by CPC


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