Women and girls are the fastest growing incarcerated population in the country, and up to ten percent of women are pregnant when they are arrested. In nearly half of U.S.states it is common practice to restrain pregnant women before, during, and after labor, and delivery. Corrections institutions that continue to restrain pregnant women argue that restraints prevent the laboring woman from escaping or harming themselves or others. However, this argument is dubious considering that the large majority of incarcerated women are non-violent offenders. Futhermore, no reported case exists of a woman ever attempting to escape during the childbirth process.
Restraining pregnant women poses health and developmental risks to the mother and baby. Most notably, restraints impede a woman’s ability to protect their fetus by breaking potential falls and prevent medical providers from transporting a woman immediately to an operating room if an emergency C-section is necessary.
Every court that has heard a case of a woman being restrained during childbirth has found the practice to be a violation of the constitutional right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Heeding these concerns, many states, federal agencies, and corrections associations have actively passed policies limiting or banning the use of restraints on this population. The federal government should set a national standard of care and decency for all pregnant women in this country by passing a measure to ban the use of restraints on pregnant women in corrections institutions unless a legitimate safety or security concern exists.
Read more about it in the new Partners for Our Children brief.