It reads like a headline from the 19th century: “Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners Could Soon End in New York.” But this headline appeared just two short weeks ago. It remains standard practice in many prisons across the country (in 28 states, to be exact ) for women to be handcuffed while pregnant, during labor, and post-partum. The practice was actually banned in the state in 2009, but flagrant violations of the law have been rampant. A new bill has been written designed to “clarify and strengthen” the existing law. The “2015 Anti-Shackling Bill” currently under consideration in New York state would extend the prohibition on shackling to the entire duration of a woman’s pregnancy, as well as an eight-week period post-partum.
Beyond being deemed “humiliating” and “barbaric” by the American Medical Association, shackling poses serious health concerns for both mother and child through thrombosis, impeding of labor, and increasing the likelihood of falls. Pregnancy in prison is already fraught with risks, with sub-standard medical care, insufficient nutrition, and grievous medical negligence all commonplace in America’s penal institutions.