A bill that would prohibit incarcerated pregnant women from being shackled while in labor has passed in both houses of the New York state legislature. The bill initially passed in the state Senate on a 119 to 21 vote and passed in the state House last week.
The bill stipulates that “no restraints of any kind shall be used when such a woman is in labor, admitted to a hospital, institution or clinic for delivery, or recovering after giving birth.” The legislation does provide an exception in extraordinary circumstances when a woman must be restrained to prevent her from injuring herself or others.
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who co-sponsored the bill with state Senator Nick Perry, said in a press release: “This practice is barbaric and unconscionable….the use of shackles presents a grave health risk for both the mother and her unborn child.”
Amber Hartgens, a Reproductive Rights Attorney with the National Health Law Program said “shackling incarcerated women when they are in labor is an inhumane and medically risky practice. Shackling a woman while in labor, arguably one of the most physically and emotionally arduous events of her life, not only makes her labor more difficult and dangerous, it degrades the childbirth experience. The practice of shackling a laboring woman works to include her childbirth experience as part of her criminal punishment. Women who are incarcerated while pregnant have disproportionately high-risk pregnancies, and to add the additional stress of restricting their movements while laboring endangers the woman’s health and that of the child she is laboring to deliver.”