Incarcerated people often are shackled while giving birth—despite laws in at least 37 states that are meant to limit the practice. A 2018 study, for instance, found that 82.9% of hospital nurses shackled their incarcerated patients during pregnancy or the postpartum period.
Shackling creates risks for both the person giving birth and the baby:
Potential for injury or placental abruption caused by tripping over shackles
Delayed progression of labor caused by impaired mobility
Delays in assessments and interventions—including receiving emergency care—due to the time it takes correctional officers to remove shackles
Exacerbation of behavioral health conditions and posttraumatic symptoms
Supporters of shackling during birth often argue that the practice is necessary for the safety of others. This position reflects inaccurate stereotypes of incarcerated people, including that they are violent or represent flight risks. In reality, women are typically non-violent offenders and those who are pregnant, in labor, or recovering from labor are “especially low flight and safety risks.” To express support for banning shackling, you can sign this ACLU petition.