There is currently bipartisan support in both the United States’ House and Senate for reforming the treatment of prisoners who are pregnant.

Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have proposed a bill in the Senate which is a companion to a similar bill Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA) and Mia Love (R-UT) introduced in the House. The bills would prohibit the use of shackles on pregnant prisoners before, during, and after labor.

According to Paul and Gillibrand, approximately 2,000 women give birth in our prison system each year, and the majority of them are shackled during the time of their pregnancy. Not only is this inhumane treatment of our prisoners, but it can also be detrimental to the health of the mother and her preborn child.

In the early 2000s, Pamela Winn, a prisoner in the Georgia federal prison system, fell trying to get into a transport bus. She was shackled, and could not break or prevent her fall. She was also 5-6 weeks pregnant at the time. She started bleeding vaginally, and because of the red tape surrounding medical care (taking up to 4 weeks to process doctor visit requests), Pamela was not able to get the care she needed and around 20 weeks along, she miscarried. While at the hospital, she was shackled to the bed.

In June of this year, Angela Stanton gave an interview stating she was handcuffed to a hospital bed while giving birth to her daughter. She only had 24 hours with her daughter before being separated from her. Her experience, like Pamela’s and so many others, was not only humiliating but also dangerous or potentially dangerous.

Sadly, Angela and Pamela are not necessarily outliers, either.

As Alveda King points out, many Americans are morally outraged at the separation of children from their parents at our country’s borders and are not outraged, or even aware of, the treatment of pregnant women in prison and the separation of those women from their children.

To foster a culture of life, as pro-life people want to do, we must treat all people with basic human decency and respect, and we must reform legislation if needed to reflect that basic respect for human life.

These companion bills would take a step toward ensuring pregnant women in prison and their preborn children will be taken care of in a more humane and safe fashion. The bills also present a fantastic opportunity for legislators to come together across the aisle in support of a common-sense reform.

Update: This bill did get made into law. A similar bill, also with bipartisan support, was introduced in 2020 and passed the House before moving to the Senate.

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I love science and teaching. I am passionate about using those interests to speak for those who can't.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.