Freedom from Violence, Health and Education, News

South Carolina Senate Advances Bill to Stop Shackling Pregnant People Who Are Incarcerated 

by Ali Titus, ACLU Policy and Communications Director on Mar 5, 2020

Criminal Justice and Reproductive Health Advocates Join Forces in Support of Passage


March 5, 2020

By a unanimous vote of 42-0, South Carolina Senators advanced legislation yesterday that seeks to limit the types of restraints used on pregnant people who are incarcerated and virtually abolish the practice of shackling people during labor, childbirth, and postpartum recovery. The legislation will return to the House of Representatives with a new amendment which would further expand protections for pregnant incarcerated peopleIf passed as amended,prisons, South Carolina’s jails and work camps would be required to provide access toadequate nutrition and a bottom bunk andwould be prohibited from holding pregnant incarcerated people in solitary confinement under most circumstances. The amendment also requires prisons, jails and work camps to ensure the availability of menstrual hygiene products for all people under their care with an active menstrual cycle and mandates that these products be made available at no cost to those who cannot afford to payAdditionally, the Department of Corrections would be required to authorize weekly contact visits between incarcerated people with low or minimum-security classifications and their children. 

“We are thrilled to be one step closer to an overdue victory for incarcerated people in South Carolina, who for too long, have been forced to bring children into the world under cruel and inhumane conditions that violate federal law and standards put forth by America’s leading correctional and medical associations,” said ACLU of South Carolina Policy and Communications DirectorAli Titus. “We urge the South Carolina House of Representatives to adopt this legislation as amended and greatly increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for parents and their newborn children.

The practice of restraining incarcerated people while they are pregnant, in labor, giving birth and recovering from birth has been cautioned against by the nation’s leading experts in maternal, fetal and child healthcare, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association. Additionally, The Federal Bureau of Prisons,U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the American Correctional Association have all adopted policies to limit the use of shackles on pregnant people who are incarcerated. Across South Carolina, criminal justice and reproductive health advocates have come together to support the state’s bill. Their organizations include the ACLU of South CarolinaANSWER Coalition; the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN); the South Carolina Perinatal Association; Justice Carolina; and the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network. 

Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network CEO Ann Warner said, “We are encouraged that the Legislature may put an end to this inhumane practice and encourage policymakers to continue to work to ensure that all people have the support they need to have healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and births. 

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