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Update on shackling pregnant women in California

California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed Assembly Bill 568, which would have limited the use of shackles on incarcerated pregnant women to the least restrictive restraints possible. In a statement, Brown claimed that at first he was inclined to sign the bill, but claimed that it “will only serve to sow confusion and invite lawsuits.”

As Lisa Russ of Strong Families points out at the Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice blog, Brown signed a number of laws the previous week that will benefit (non-incarcerated) mothers in California:

In the middle of last week, I lost faith.  The Governor's office put out a press release celebrating four important bills for California moms!  Hoping against hope, I scanned the list.  AB568 was not there.  It was important stuff that I support and you probably do too, like protecting health insurance for pregnant women, and something to encourage breast feeding in maternity wards.  Good stuff.

And yet, for me, what was left off was loudest of all.  We weren't even vetoed on the same day the Governor signed those Mom Bills.  Pregnant women who are incarcerated do not count as California moms!  Their rights are considered favors that we are doing for them.  The fact that they struggle with drugs, with money, with violence, is enough for us to put them away, both behind bars and into another category: prisoners.

Women's rights advocates in California will continue to work for a ban on shackling women in labor.

Blog Posts, Past Actions

Take action to end shackling of prisoners in labor

If you live in California, please contact Governor Jerry Brown's office to urge him to sign AB568.

Assembly Bill 568 (Skinner) would limit the use of shackles on incarcerated pregnant women to the least restrictive restraints possible.

Translation: It would end the use of belly chains, leg irons, ankle restraints and other barbaric shackling devices that are used on pregnant women in jails and prisons across our state. Yes, shackles reminiscent of slavery are still being used on pregnant women as far long as 8 ½ months.

Medical professionals agree that it’s time for a change. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) was so moved by this issue that they became co-sponsors of the bill. ACOG opposes the use of any restraints on pregnant women because it increases the risk of falling and leaving the pregnant woman, whose balance is already compromised, unable to break those falls.

When I tell my friends about the bill, their response is usually a quiet gasp followed by a confused expression because they are in disbelief. “We actually do that?” Yes, “we” do. We shackle pregnant women.


via California sheriffs organize against pregnant women