HARRISBURG (June 29)- The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today passed legislation to end the cruel practice of shackling prison inmates during childbirth. Senate Bill 1074 heads to Governor Edward Rendell's desk while the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania hailed the House vote as a victory for women and children.
"By passing this bill today, the House sent a clear message that Pennsylvania will lead the way in stopping this archaic form of torture," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
The commonwealth would become the eighth state to ban shackling of inmates in childbirth via statute. The other states that have statutory prohibitions on the practice are Texas, New Mexico, New York, California, Washington, Illinois, and Vermont. In addition, the federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshalls Service have policies that ensure that women who are incarcerated do not have to suffer from shackling while in labor.
Earlier this month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution urging policymakers to end the practice, joining The American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
"These health professionals understand that shackling during labor is unsafe and inhumane," Hoover said.
Hoover also noted that multiple legislators ensured the bill's passage and said that lawmakers involved included Senator Daylin Leach, the primary sponsor; Rep. Babette Josephs, who advocated with House leadership to bring the bill up for a floor vote; Senator Stewart Greenleaf and Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, who shepherded the bill through their respective judiciary committees; and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, who moved the legislation before their legislative chambers.
"This was a bipartisan effort across both the Senate and House," Hoover said. "We're grateful to these legislators for seeing the bill through the process."
Along with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, other supporters of the legislation include the Pennsylvania Prison Society, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, the Women's Law Project, Pennsylvania NOW, the Maternity Care Coalition, and Women's Way, among many others.