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House passes bill to end shackling of pregnant women

The bill is still awaiting consideration by a Senate committee with five days remaining on the legislative calendar.

(STOCK)

The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill that would stop pregnant women in Alabama prisons from being shackled.

The U.S. Congress in 2019 banned federal prisons from shackling pregnant women, but some states haven’t yet banned the practice. Alabama is the last Southern state to shackle and solitarily confine incarcerated pregnant women.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, would prevent waist and leg restraints from being used on any incarcerated individual during pregnancy, labor and delivery or the immediate postpartum period and would only allow wrist restraints in the postpartum period under a set of specific circumstances.

The bill is designed to ensure pregnant women can catch themselves if they trip and fall, protecting the baby in their wombs.

The initial version of the bill stopped short of banning the practice altogether, and instead would have only prevented shackling pregnant women during birth and during the six-week period following birth. 

Hollis told APR at the time that the bill was always intended to prevent the shackling of women during any stage of pregnancy and would contact the Legislative Services Agency to correct the bill.

The only point of debate on the bill was a section that states a “squat or cough” search of a pregnant woman should only be conducted by a healthcare professional. A concern was raised that having the search conducted by medical personnel could disrupt the trusting relationship necessary to ensure incarcerated individuals feel comfortable receiving health care. No changes were made to the language though and the bill passed on a 78-21 vote.

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Pamela Winn miscarried her child after being sent to a federal prison in Georgia for a white collar crime while six months pregnant. She fell down attempting to enter a van while shackled around her ankles, and a chain wrapped around her belly connected to handcuffs. She didn’t receive needed emergency medical care after the fall, and miscarried a few months later, shackled to a bed during the painful miscarriage. 

For Winn, the goal has to be to end the shackling of pregnant women at all times, and she believes Alabama lawmakers should be “fighting and pushing” to make sure the legislation gets approved. 

“Irregardless of the state of the mother,” Winn told APR in January. “Where she’s located. Whatever she’s done. At the end of the day what we all should be concerned about is making sure that there is a safe and healthy delivery of a baby, that is innocent. That has not had a chance at life yet.”

The bill is awaiting committee in the Senate with five legislative days remaining on the calendar to pass the full Senate.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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