Jul 21 2010

Giving Birth In Chains?

This blog is primarily about “green” living and incorporating kids with that in mind. However, it’s also a platform to raise awareness on various issues I find interesting, upsetting, inspiring or noteworthy.This post falls under the “upsetting would be an understatement” category.

I was shocked to learn that many female inmates in this country are forced to give birth and labor while handcuffed or chained to the bed!

Is the concern that an inmate who is 8 or 9 months pregnant, is going to fake labor, overtake the OB, and officer who is surely present, and make a break for it? Does anyone out there believe there is a serious risk of flight posed under those circumstances?

Clearly this is a system run primarily by men who have no idea what is involved in giving birth.

My second birth was drug-free and I needed to move! For me, movement was crucial not only for my comfort, but I needed to move to get the baby out. I never could have had the quick, healthy, amazing delivery I had if I was unable to move freely. Even with an epidural, a women still needs to be able to move as much as she can.

It’s true I’m not a convicted felon, but certainly this is one area where we can lend some discretionary freedoms.

Ten states now have anti-shackling legislation: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and  Pennsylvania. Sadly, my home state of Michigan is not on that list.

In Illinois there is a class action lawsuit pending against Cook County. One of the women included in the case was convicted of fraudulently cashing payroll checks. Her legs were shackled together for 9 hours of labor until they finally removed them so she could push. When she arrived at the hospital she even had a chain around her abdomen! I cannot even imagine how excruciating that must have been for her. She freely admits she should be punished for her crime, but that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment – at least to me it does, and hopefully to the jury as well.

It’s estimated that about 1300 women give birth while incarcerated each year. How many of those women are shackled is unknown.

The sad truth is that most wardens probably don’t even think about what they are doing. They’re just doing what’s always been done. Hopefully now that this issue is getting some attention, more states will enact laws outlawing this barbaric practice.

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