As organizations that stand for rights and justice for all, we urge you, with one united voice, to cast your votes in support of this bill. Let the State of Florida make a stand for Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women. This historic legislation bans the inhumane and unjustified practice of routine shackling of those who are incarcerated during pregnancy, labor and postpartum. We stand united in support of HB367 and in support of dignity and safety for all pregnant persons and their babies. By pa ssing the Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act the state of Florida will become the first state in the South to pass anti-shackling legislation and will join a host of other states nationwide to ban the practice. Florida will be setting an essential standard for the human rights, dignity, health and safety of pregnant people regardless of their circumstances.
There are many considerations in voting yes on HB367. There is no sound reason to vote against it. Shackling does not make anyone safer; it actually creates more danger for the mother and baby. As the bill states, “restraining a pregnant prisoner can increase health risks and the potential for physical harm to the woman and her pregnancy.” The Federal Bureau of Prisons, the United States Marshals Service, the American Correctional Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Public Health Association all oppose restraining women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery because it is unnecessary and dangerous to a woman's health and well being.
During pregnancy, shackling increases the risk of falls and decreases the woman’s ability to protect herself and the fetus if she does fall. Shackling during labor may cause complications during delivery such as blood clots or fetal distress. Precious time can be lost unlocking and removing restraints, if emergency diagnostic and life-saving procedures become necessary[i]. Shackling during labor and birth causes emotional distress and trauma and is cruel and unnecessary. Shackling during postpartum recovery can prevent mothers from bonding with and breastfeeding their babies for the short time they are allowed to be together.
There is no need for shackling, as the vast majority of incarcerated women are there for nonviolent crimes. The average prisoner in a women’s prison is of reproductive age,[ii] is a mother to minor children, and is incarcerated for crimes of poverty and addiction[iii]. Many are survivors of abuse. Most are already in high-risk pregnancies[iv]. What incarcerated people need are dignified and comprehensive health services. The practice of shackling only furthers victimization and increases risk.
The practice goes against the 2002 Supreme Court precedent protecting prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to be free from inhuman treatment.[v] The United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Committee Against Torture have declared that shackling violates the United States’ obligations under international treaties ratified by the United States.[vi] The practice also violates the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.[vii]
The rights of all of Florida’s citizens, including the incarcerated ones, must be upheld. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure safe and dignified pregnancy, birth and postpartum conditions for everyone in state custody. Birth Justice upholds every person’s right to birth in dignity and with respect. It is every person’s right to birth free from chains. We demand Birth Justice for all.
We are making our voice heard. We citizens urge you, representatives of the people of Florida, to make a stand and make history- vote YES on the Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act.
International Center for Traditional Childbearing
SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW
Sisterhood of Survivors
Salad and Politics
Commonsense Childbirth, Inc.
Birthworkers of Color United
Kindred Healing Justice Collective
Florida New Majority
Miami Workers Center
Florida Legal Services
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Florida Friends of Midwives
The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance
California Black Women's Health Project
The Aleph Institute
Loving Hands Midwifery
ACLU of Florida
Gainesville Doulas and Co
Spirit of Life Midwifery
Amnesty International USA
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
National Women’s Law Center
[i] Health care for pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women and adolescent females. Committee Opinion No. 511. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2011;118: 1198–1202
[ii] U.S. Dep’t. of Justice, Nat’l Inst. Corrections, Correctional Health Care: Guidelines for the Management of an Adequate Delivery System 233 (2001), at http://www.nicic.org/pubs/2001/017521.pdf.
[iii] Latina Advocacy Network, New York Letter of Support. (April 2009). Some of the facts and references herein are borrowed from this letter.
[iv] Jennifer G. Clarke, Megan R. Hebert, Cynthia Rosengard, Jennifer S. Rose, Kristen M. DaSilva, Michael D. Stein, Reproductive Health Care and Family Planning Needs Among Incarcerated Women, Am. J. Pub. Health, 834-839 (2006).
[v] The Supreme Court has held that prison officials have an obligation under the Eighth Amendment to ensure humane conditions of incarceration and to protect inmates from substantial risks of harm to their health or safety. See, e.g., Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 738 (2002).
[vi] Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: United States of America, 87th Sess., ¶ 33, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/USA/CO/3/Rev. 1 (2006); U.N. Human Rights Comm., Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee against Torture, ¶ 33 CAT/C/USA/CO/2 (July 23, 2006).
[vii] Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, U.N. Doc. A/CONF/1Annex 1, E.S.C. res. 663C, U.N. ESCOR, 24th Sess., Supp. No. 1, U.N. Doc. E/3048, Rule 33(c) (July 31, 1957).