Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Action Alert: Protect the Health of Pregnant Prisoners & Their Unborn Babies

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Victoria Cobb, President

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Action Alert: Protect the Health of Pregnant Prisoners & Their Unborn Babies


Currently in the state of Virginia, if a woman is incarcerated in our prison system and goes into labor she may be restrained and shackled during the whole childbirth experience. This practice is not safe for the health of the pregnant mother, nor the life of the unborn child and must be overturned.

The Facts

·         The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the United Nations have condemned the practice of using restraints on pregnant prisoners, citing the serious health risks posed to the mother and infant.

·         Eli Adashi, a professor of medical science at Brown University and member of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, said the health risks grow with each advancing stage of pregnancy.

·         The challenges of restraints become more urgent in the delivery room, where it’s vital for a woman to move around early in labor to appease pain and expedite delivery. Should an emergency arise, including the need for a cesarean section, precious seconds are lost uncuffing a woman, potentially preventing a doctor from delivering necessary care, according to Maureen Phipps, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brown University.

·         Restricting the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners will not jeopardize the safety of correctional or medical staff. Among the states that have restricted restraints on pregnant inmates, none have documented instances of women in labor or delivery escaping or causing harm to themselves, the public, security guards, or medical staff.


The Action

We need your help!  Currently, there is an introduced bill (HB 836) that bans hard restraints on pregnant inmates during labor, transport, delivery or postpartum recovery except in the case of extenuating safety circumstances.  This bill would codify action taken this past fall by the Virginia Board of Corrections in which the Board voted unanimously to restrict the use of hard restraints on pregnant prisoners.  The bill allows for an assessment by the jailer that if the pregnant inmate is a flight risk or may pose serious risk of harm to herself or others she may still remain in shackles.


Prior to the regulations going into effect, they must undergo a thirty-day public comment period.  Please visit the public forum and post your comment in favor of restricting the use of shackles on pregnant prisoners.  It is important to have a strong presence in the public forum to signal support to the Board of Corrections.  Please click here to post your comment. 


This is such an important issue; the proposed regulation has garnered support from a diverse coalition: the Virginia Catholic Conference, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Prison Fellowship.


Please take time to post your support for this regulation; help insure that mothers and their unborn children are protected and given the best opportunity for a safe start together. Please visit: http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/entercomment.cfm?stageid=6083

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