Shackled & Chained During Childbirth: It's Happening

Cynthia Dermody
6

handcuffsFreedom of movement during labor is one of the many reasons a growing number of pregnant women choose to birth at home. In the hospital, laboring women are hooked up to monitors that confine them to their beds. Moms complain this prevents them from listening to their bodies and assuming positions that are most comfortable and natural.

If that's unnatural, the procedure being forced on women who give birth in prisons is downright inhumane. Many incarcerated women are shackled and chained to their beds, not just in labor but during the actual delivery.

Few people know this occurs. I had no idea myself. Only about 1,000 women a year have babies while incarcerated, so such a small amount isn't likely to attract a lot of attention. A few states prohibit shackling a prisoner during childbirth.

It's not an official rule, but rather the failure on the part of prison officials to distinguish between a medical procedure and childbirth. All prisoners are restrained during procedures and medical treatments to prevent escape and protect innocent civilians around them.

Now, many women inmates who were chained during delivery are filing lawsuits, and they are winning, reports NPR. A recent article details the story of one plaintiff who was serving time on a fraudulent check charge:

Officers cuffed her hands and chained her legs together. Another chain was placed around her belly, connecting her hands to her feet. When she got to the hospital, she says, the belly chain was removed, but her legs were still chained, and one hand was cuffed to the bed.

A fraudulent check charge. Her crime involved a pen. You're chaining her? A murderer I can understand. At least one pregnant woman did during the birth of her child, so it does happen. But I'll go out on a limb and say this is the exception. Some women are crazy and dangerous, but most laboring moms are just laboring moms, living through a wonderful and welcome milestone in their lives, criminal history or no.

Harken back, ladies, to that glorious day, your child's birth day. Now remember the pain. Now remember how you wanted to die. Now remember how much you longed to hold and cuddle your baby. Even if it were physically possible, would you have hopped up and done sprints?


Image via banspy/Flickr

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