Bill to stop handcuffing pregnant incarcerated women passes through House committee 

Monitor staff
Published: 4/6/2022 4:23:04 PM

A bill that would stop correctional facilities from using restraints on pregnant women in most circumstances was unanimously approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday and needs one more affirmative vote from the full House of Representatives before heading to the Governor’s desk to be signed or vetoed.

If the bill becomes law, jails and prisons could not use restraints during transportation for medical appointments, labor and delivery, after delivery, or while in postpartum recovery unless the facility’s chief medical officer determines there are “extraordinary” security circumstances. 

In the public hearing Wednesday, state Sen. Becky Whitley, a Hopkinton Democrat and the primary sponsor of SB 393, said using handcuffs on pregnant women can delay critical care and prevent the mother from properly bonding with her baby post-partum. 

“Anyone who’s given birth knows that a women’s ability to harm others or flee during labor is severely limited,” she said. 

Kristie Torbick, a formerly incarcerated Granite Stater, said that while in prison, she met pregnant women who were fearful of the birth process because of the restraints and the imminent separation from their babies. 

“Upon returning to prison after giving birth, these women would often seclude themselves in their cells for days or weeks, sometimes curled in the fetal position crying, obviously trauma and devastated from the overall experience,” Torbick said. 

The American Psychological Association, which supports strictly enforced protections against the use of restraints, has found that restraining women during childbirth can cause severe mental distress, depression, anguish, and trauma. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also supports legislation limiting restraints during pregnancy. 

“SB 393 strives to keep moms, babies, medical staff, corrections staff, and the public all safe during this extremely vulnerable time,” Whitley said in a statement. 

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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