Stop Shackling Pregnant Incarcerated Women
Take action! Sign our Statement:
All women deserve a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth experience, including prenatal care, adequate nutrition, and support during labor and birth. For women in prison and jail, this includes protection from medically unsafe and demeaning restraints, such as handcuffs, leg irons, and belly chains.
Shackling pregnant women is dangerous. During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, it increases the risk of falling and injury. Shackling women during labor and birth interferes with their ability to move and with medical professionals’ ability to care for their patients and to intervene in emergency situations.
Shackling women during postpartum recovery undermines mother-child bonding and women’s safe care of their newborn babies. Shackling is not necessary. Trained correctional officers always guard women outside of prison and jail. Women in labor are engaged in difficult, painful physical activity, in secure hospital wards, under officers’ supervision, making them low flight risks.
Leading medical and public health organizations including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care oppose the shackling of pregnant women, particularly during labor and childbirth.
Legal and human rights organizations such as the American Bar Association and Amnesty International also oppose the practice. Even the American Correctional Association’s professional standards prohibit shackling women during labor and delivery.
Federal courts have expressly condemned shackling women in labor as cruel and unusual punishment. Eighteen states, including Louisiana and Texas, have already passed laws prohibiting shackling.
Massachusetts should join them and adopt one consistent, safe, and humane standard for the care of pregnant women in prison and jail.