By virtue of being a strict system of physical confinement and punishment, incarceration has unique institutional characteristics, and yet it also provides a kind of microcosm of reproductive politics. Nowhere is race and class stratification more evident than in the criminal justice and prison systems, where poor women and men of color are dramatically overrepresented relative to their numbers in the population.
In 2010, Pennsylvania passed a law prohibiting the shackling of pregnant women behind bars. The law contained an exception if an officer believes the woman is dangerous to herself or others. That exception is used fairly frequently.
While the United States' record of reproductive health care behind bars is dismal, two other countries recently made headlines for their abysmal practices as well.
Legislation limiting or prohibiting shackling has not actually stopped the practice.
After signing a bill to outlaw the shackling of women in labor, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told the packed room, “It blows my mind that I have to sign a law for that.” With the governor’s signature, Massachusetts became the 21st state to limit the use of restraints on pregnant women, especially during labor and childbirth. Rachel Roth has more.
"In 1995, my youngest son and I walked out of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility." Twenty years later, WORTH co-founder and director Tina Reynolds shares her thoughts on mothering in prison.
The Massachusetts Legislature sent Governor Deval Patrick an important and long-awaited bill to guarantee minimum standards for pregnant women in jail and prison, including strict limits on shackling. Governor Patrick has ten days to sign the bill into law. He has already said he wants to sign it. Rachel Roth has more on the wins, losses and lessons around this bill.
Just in time for Mother’s Day, the Minnesota Legislature sent a bill to the governor to improve the treatment of pregnant women in prison and jail. The unanimous votes cap a lightning-fast campaign during a short legislative session. Officially, the bill is known as Senate File 2423 and the description accompanying the bill reads, “addressing the needs of incarcerated women related to pregnancy and childbirth.” Rachel Roth has more.
Is it possible to advocate for fetuses and babies without advocating for pregnant women? Such a question might not even have been possible a generation ago. But over the past few decades a trend to treat fetuses as if they exist separately from pregnant women has reverberated throughout our culture and legal system, resulting in all sorts of illogical, surprising, and decidedly unfeminist positions. Rachel Roth has more.
Maryland has become State 19 to enact legislation banning shackling of pregnant women and girls. Independent scholar and reproductive justice advocate Rachel Roth has more.
One woman's story of being shackled while being taken to the hospital during her ectopic pregnancy.
What happens after birth? Margaret, who shared her experience of pregnancy and birth in Chicago's Cook County Jail, continues her story.
I delivered my baby while serving my second prison sentence. She suffered from methadone withdrawal related to my heroin use. She was w/o a mother while withdrawing because I could only be with her for 30 hours while shackled to a bed. She was taken and I was cuffed, in the same 20 seconds before leaving the delivery room.
shackling of pregnant women can be harmful to both mother and her unborn child. Share your stories if you are someone you know is/or was affected by this awful injustice while in the criminal justice system. WORTH is currently collecting stories, we need your support. With your pledge,we can make a difference to help, BAN SHACKLING ON ALL PREGNANT WOMEN WORLDWIDE!!!!
For the Allied Media Conference