PA Senate Committee Passes Bill to Ban Shackling of Pregnant Inmates in Labor

January 26, 2010 12:00 am

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ACLU of PA Among Multiple Advocacy Groups Supporting the Legislation

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HARRISBURG – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania praised the state Senate Judiciary Committee today for passing legislation to ban the practice of shackling pregnant inmates in the commonwealth’s jails and prisons during childbirth. Senate Bill 1074, the Healthy Birth for Incarcerated Women Act, passed the committee unanimously.

“No woman should have to endure the humiliation and physical trauma of being shackled to a bed while giving birth,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “No child should have to come into the world in that way. This bill ensures that incarcerated women in Pennsylvania can experience childbirth with dignity.”

Although how widespread the practice is in the state’s prisons and county jails is not clear, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and its allies have heard multiple anecdotes of female prisoners in labor being shackled in the commonwealth. Public health professionals, including the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose the practice and support bills to ban it.

“The reaction we get from legislators, staff, and other advocates when we talk about this issue is shock,” Hoover said. “Few people can believe that this occurs in Pennsylvania’s prisons. A law banning the practice is a no-brainer.”

Senator Daylin Leach, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the primary sponsor of SB 1074, and other advocates joining the ACLU of PA in support include the Pennsylvania Prison Society, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Women’s Law Project, Women’s Way, Maternity Care Coalition, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, among others.

The Healthy Birth for Incarcerated Women Act now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

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