North Carolina’s Democratic legislators have introduced a bill that would prohibit the shackling of incarcerated women while they give birth.
After a story came out about two women who gave birth at a Triangle region hospital with their hands and feet shackled, advocates complained to prison officials about the practice, according to a North Carolina Health News article.
“When someone is handcuffed to a bed, they can’t roll over, can’t get up and walk freely,” Sarah Gillooly, with North Carolina’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told the North Carolina Health News. “And medical staff doesn’t have quick convenient access to patient.”
Prison staff changed the policy and resolved to stop shackling women while they’re giving birth. This shift was not enough for Sen. Erica Smith (D-Jackson), however. She now wants to make this practice a statewide law. Her new bill would prohibit shackling inmates during pregnancy, labor, delivery and the postpartum period.
“We have ordinances in North Carolina cities that will not even allow you to tie up a dog,” Smith told the North Carolina Health News. “At the end of the day, simply put, people don’t follow policies. People follow laws.”
Twenty states across the United States have already passed laws that deal with shackling pregnant and postpartum women.
According to North Carolina Health News, the bill is supported by Democratic women in the House and Senate but has yet to receive bipartisan support. However, these issues seem to be on the radar of state Republicans.
“Given that restraining pregnant women presents huge health and safety risks to both mother and child, it is certainly valuable to contemplate changes to these policies,” Tarrah Callahan, executive director of Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform, told the North Carolina Health News.