HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed legislation today to ban the commonwealth's prisons and county jails from shackling pregnant inmates during childbirth. The governor's approval of the bill, Senate Bill 1074, drew praise from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, one of many advocacy organizations supporting the initiative.
"This is pro-human rights legislation, and it's not often that pro-human rights policies become law in the commonwealth," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Today the governor stood with numerous national public health associations and advocates in favor of banning this archaic practice."
Last month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling on policymakers to prohibit shackling of inmates in labor, joining the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Pennsylvania is at least the eighth state to approve legislation banning the practice, joining Texas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, California, Illinois, and Vermont.
As advocacy organizations have been lobbying for the bill, legislators, capitol staff, and the media have expressed shock that this occurs. Hoover noted that the ACLU of Pennsylvania and other advocates have heard multiple stories of women being shackled while bringing a child into the world.
"Behind prison walls, away from the eyes of the world, this cruel practice has been allowed to go on," Hoover said. "No child should be born while his or her mother is chained to a bed."
The ACLU of Pennsylvania was one of many advocates supporting SB 1074. Others include Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Prison Society, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Women's Way, Women's Law Project, Pennsylvania NOW, and the Maternity Care Coalition, among many others.