August 18, 2009 — Gov. David Paterson today appeared at a demonstration outside of his Manhattan office and pledged to sign legislation that would restrict the use of shackles on pregnant inmates during labor and after delivery. Among those at the demonstration were women who have given birth while shackled and women from across New York City who were wearing simulated pregnant bellies and shackles. The event was organized by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Correctional Association of New York and Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH).
As dozens chanted “Paterson, Break the Chains!” and “Sign the Bill!,” the governor came out to the group and explained that the health and safety of women and children is paramount to him as governor. He said that though he initially had some reservations about the bill, he would sign it. The bill was delivered to him today.
“We commend Governor Paterson for his leadership and for ending the cruel and unusual punishment that is shackling a woman in labor,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
New York is one of the few states that allows incarcerated women to be shackled during labor or while they are being transported to the hospital to give birth. Shackling pregnant women endangers the lives of the women and their babies. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Women’s Association, and the American College of Nurse Midwives all vehemently oppose shackling incarcerated women during labor.
“Only two jails in New York restrict the use of shackles on pregnant women,” said Corinne Carey, NYCLU public policy counsel. “We need a uniform prohibition to ensure that no pregnant woman is ever shackled during labor and delivery – no matter where she is incarcerated. We applaud the governor for ending this inhumane and unconstitutional practice.”
Legislation that would prohibit restraints from being used on pregnant inmates during transport to and from medical appointments and during labor and delivery has passed the State Senate and Assembly and is just waiting for the governor’s signature. The bill, sponsored by Senator Velmanette Mongtomery and Assemblyman Nick Perry, contains a provision that would allow corrections officials to handcuff a woman being transported for medical care only if she presents a danger to herself or medical or correctional personnel, but never while she is in labor or after she has delivered her baby.