33 out of 50 is a failing grade for the United States. The American Medical Association in a 2010 resolution called the practice of shackling pregnant inmates unsafe, medically dangerous, and “barbaric.” Many physicians and nurses assert that shackling pregnant inmates during any stage of the pregnancy is damaging to the pregnant mothers and their babies. Shackling restricts the pregnant mother from moving in order to manage the pains of labor and birth. Shackling can aggravate birthing risks which include: pre-eclampsia (a condition causing a pregnant woman to have high blood pressure), premature birth, and increased risk of falls that could seriously injure the fetus.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced recently a number of proposals to change the prison system including prohibiting the shackling of pregnant women during childbirth and post-delivery recuperation. With these proposed changes in Massachusetts, the number of states allowing shackling during birth will change from 33 to 32 – still a failing grade for our society. Prior to Gov. Patrick’s proposal, Massachusetts state prisons did not allow shackling during the birth process, but the new proposal would ban shackling during birth in all of the local county prisons and jails.
Opponents argue that a pregnant inmate could try to escape and injure a member of the medical staff during the attempt. However, states that have restricted shackling of pregnant prisoners do not have any documented record of women in labor trying to escape and causing harm to the public, security guards, or medical staff.
There is no excuse or reason for shackling a pregnant inmate during labor and birth. It is time for every state to ban shackling pregnant inmates. It is time to wipe this stain from the American record.