New York Prisons Finally Banned From Shackling Pregnant Women

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iStock_000010361806_SmallCan you imagine being shackled while heavily pregnant? The idea is painful, dangerous, and inhumane, but the shackling of pregnant women is happening all around the country.

Not only is shackling a pregnant woman extremely uncomfortable, it can also be dangerous. According to the New York Daily News, shackling increases the risk of falling or developing blood clots, which can be dangerous for pregnant women. But a new law signed Tuesday means that New York prisons will no longer be allowed to shackle pregnant women, including during transportation or trips to medical appointments, which can reportedly take up to 10 hours. No pregnant woman should be forced to spend 10 hours in shackles.

The new law also bans the shackling of female inmates for 8 weeks after giving birth, except in extreme circumstances.

“Even while paying for crimes they committed, women are still entitled to be treated as human beings and today New York makes a big statement with a clear message that we will respect the human rights of the pregnant women in our prison system,” said Assembly bill sponsor Nick Perry to the New York Daily News.

It was just in 2009 that New York passed a law prohibiting female inmates from being forced to wear shackles during labor and delivery, but several inmates who gave birth this past year while in state custody later said that they were shackled anyway, even though that s against the law. A New York Times report from 2014 indicates that in the past 15 years, 21 states have passed laws against the shackling of female inmates during labor and delivery, but that it is still happening anyway, in complete violation of anti-shackling laws.

The shackling of pregnant women in U.S. prisons is a serious women’s rights issue, and this new law in New York is a definite move in the right direction. But for it to really count as a victory, it will have to make a difference in practice and not just on paper.

(Photo: Guillermo Perales Gonzale/iStockPhoto/Getty Images)