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ANNAPOLIS - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland celebrated passage of House Bill 27, the Healthy Births for Incarcerated Women Act, which would impose restrictions on the shackling of pregnant incarcerated women during labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery. Delegates Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City), Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), and Barbara Robinson (D-Baltimore City), supported by a strong coalition of organizations, introduced HB 27 to ensure that Maryland's women have protections against this barbaric and dangerous practice. The Senate version, SB 626, was introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery). The bill, which passed unanimously, now goes to Governor Martin O'Malley, who will hopefully sign it.
"This is a proud moment when Maryland is turning decisively away from the inhumane, dangerous, and unnecessary practice of shackling pregnant women" said Sara Love, Public Policy Director for the ACLU. "Maryland needs a statewide law to ensure that pregnant women are protected against this barbaric practice."
Women who enter correctional facilities while pregnant should never endure the humiliation and pain of being shackled during transport, labor, delivery, or recovery. Restraining a pregnant prisoner-most of whom are arrested for non-violent offenses-can pose undue health risks. Many national correctional and medical associations denounce this practice, and laws have been passed restricting the use of restraints in 18 states. Advocates and organizations who joined the ACLU in supporting the bill include Power Inside, the Maryland Nurses Association, the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, Professor Leigh Goodmark, Director of the Gender Violence Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and her student Lisa Piccinini, as well as many others.
"Shackling women during labor is seen by many fair-minded people as a form of cruel and unusual punishment," said Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City). "This law is an important and long overdue step away from dangerous and antiquated practices that dehumanize women."
“This bill means a lot to pregnant prisoners, allowing them a measure of comfort, decency, and security," Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery). "The stories we have heard about the shackling of pregnant prisoners are mortifying and unacceptable in a civilized country and a great state. I’m proud of what we did today.”