Giving Birth in Prison

March 5, 2006

I just read this article in the New York Times, entitled Giving Birth in Chains:

It should not take a genius to see that chaining a woman’s feet together or handcuffing her arm and leg to the side of a bed is not a smart thing to do during labor or childbirth. Yet doctors and nurses must sometimes fight with reluctant corrections officers if they want their pregnant patients unchained and effectively treated. Court papers in a lawsuit filed in Arkansas claim that because of resistance by the corrections guard, a mother-to-be remained shackled until she had suffered nerve damage and a permanent back injury.

The primitive practice of chaining women in childbirth should shame us all. As one father put it after his wife, who was serving time for vehicular homicide, gave birth in custody: “It sounds like something from slavery 200 years ago.”

I went through two births. I don’t know about you, but I remember, quite vividly, not even being able to hear someone chant “breathe, breathe”, let alone plot an escape. Exactly how far can you go, with a head hanging out of your dilated woman parts…