Despite great strides made by the international women’s rights movement over many years, women and girls around the world are still married as children or trafficked into forced labor and sex slavery. They are refused access to education and political participation, and some are trapped in conflicts where rape is perpetrated as a weapon of war. Around the world, deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are needlessly high, and women are prevented from making deeply personal choices in their private lives. Human Rights Watch is working toward the realization of women’s empowerment and gender equality—protecting the rights and improving the lives of women and girls on the ground.
BALTIMORE (AP) — Domestic violence incidents have soared in Baltimore during the COVID-19 pandemic, with police reporting a case increase of nearly one-third in the city, according to police department data.
Experts told the Baltimore Sun that isolation, cramped living conditions and financial hardships from the pandemic have made it more difficult for survivors, predominantly women, to seek protection or leave their abusers.
Violent domestic crime in Baltimore has risen 31% year in 2021, increasing from 354 incidents in the first three months of 2020 to 462 in the first three months of this year, police data shows. Reports of domestic aggravated assaults have risen by 35%, from 266 to 359 during the same period.
The Health Births for Incarcerated Women Act takes effect July 1, 2014. This law prohibits the use of a physical restraints on an inmate while the inmate is in labor or during delivery in certain circumstances. But don’t sit back, there is still work ahead!
Celebrating Success with our Allies in Massachusetts
Guest post by Rachel Roth
I was thrilled to have a front-row seat at the State House in Boston when Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill to change the way that pregnant women in jail and prison are treated.
The room was packed with at least 100 policymakers, legislative staffers, and advocates who support an end to shackling. After he signed the bill, Governor Patrick said, “It blows my mind that I have to sign a law for that.”
Statement of Opposition
Statement of Opposition to Shackling Pregnant Women and Girls in Correctional Facilities in Maryland
Across the country, pregnant women suffer undue health risks when they are shackled before, during, and while recovering from labor. In Maryland, handcuffs, leg shackles and belly chains are used to restrain pregnant women during transport and medical appointments.Even during active labor, women and girls incarcerated in Maryland may endure the pain and restricted movement from having their wrists and ankles chained to the rails of the hospital bed.
Maryland law does not even require correctional staff to consider input from medical staff when deciding whether to shackle a pregnant woman. Shackling pregnant women is permitted not only in Maryland’s state-run adult and juvenile facilities, but also in local detention centers where women are held awaiting trial, before they have been proven guilty of any crime.
Leading health and law enforcement authorities oppose the practice of shackling because it poses serious health risks to the pregnant woman and her baby. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association are all on record against the practice. In addition, the American Correctional Association, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Marshals Service have all adopted policies to limit shackling of pregnant women.
Moreover, federal courts have expressly condemned the practice of shackling pregnant women in labor as violating the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The need to ensure the safety and security of the public is important. But the evidence shows that as a practical matter, shackling pregnant women and girls in the name of safety and security is almost never justified. It is well documented that most incarcerated women have been convicted of nonviolent offenses. Supervision by correctional officers provides sufficient protection to the degree any risk exists. In fact, as ACOG notes, “no escape attempts have been reported among pregnant incarcerated women who were not shackled during childbirth.” The significant health risks of shackling are far greater than any risk to public safety.
In recognition of the harms of shackling pregnant women, a growing number of states prohibit or restrict shackling of pregnant prisoners. We urge state lawmakers to act now on behalf of women here in Maryland, by prohibiting the practice of shackling pregnant women and girls during transport, labor, delivery and recovery.
Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Inc.
Public Justice Center
Marian House, Inc.
Alternative Directions, Inc.
Health Care for the Homeless
Turn Around, Inc.
YWCA Greater Baltimore
Hopkins Feminists at Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition at JHU
Women Involved in Learning & Leadership at UMBC
Maryland State Jericho Chapter
Marylanders United for Fairness for Females
2 God B The Glory
Baltimore Feminist Reading Group
The Young Democrats of Maryland
Not Just Skin
Birthing Hands of DC, LLC
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Different Avenues, Inc.
Women With A Vision, Inc.
Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Our Bodies Ourselves
The Real Cost of Prisons Project Individual Endorsements Judges, doctors, scholars, public health professionals, social workers, mothers, fathers, students, former prisoners, pregnant women, faith leaders, community members, former prisoners, and survivors of shackling from around the state of Maryland and the country.