Every year, thousands of pregnant women are sent behind bars and will not only spend their pregnancies in prison, but give birth while in prison. A 2010 survey of women’s prisons report that very few states provide prenatal exams, nutrition, screening and treatments for women with high-risk pregnancies. And more than once a week, a woman goes into labor and gives birth, often shackled and handcuffed.
This barbaric practice of shackling and handcuffing a woman by her wrists and ankles, limits her abilities to move to alleviate pain during contractions. This may restrict the flow of oxygen to her fetus. This practice greatly increases the risk of danger to not only the fetus, but the mother as well.
Birthing Behind Bars is an organization that is trying to address pregnancy and other reproductive issues for women in prison. The main mission of Birthing Behind Bars is to support efforts to end the shackling of pregnant and birthing women behind bars and to make sure that all pregnant women receive essential health care services for the duration of their pregnancy and beyond.
“the American College of Nurse-Midwives and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, believe that shackling incarcerated pregnant women during labor and delivery is unsafe and dangerous to the health and lives of the mother and the baby.
In 2009 an organization called WORTH – (Women on the Rose Telling Her Story) was started so that women could share their stories of pregnancy, labor and birth while in prison and while being handcuffed and shackled. As one woman describes, her experience was “the most egregious, dehumanizing, oppressive practice that I ever experienced while in prison.”
The women involved with WORTH feel that through leadership development, organizing, mentoring, mutual support and sharing stories of incarceration and pregnancy, that they can help transform the lives women who are affected by the atrocious practice of shackling and hand cuffing while in labor. Through the stories and advocacy of WORTH, the state of New York prohibits this practice. WORTH is currently going national with the campaign to eliminate all shackling of women in prisons throughout the nation.
To read more on how you can help this very important campaign, please read more here.