Fleming legislation to protect pregnant women from being shackled passes House

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INDIANAPOLIS - House Bill (HB) 1294: Restraint of pregnant inmates, authored by State Rep. Rita Fleming (D-Jeffersonville), unanimously passed the House today.

HB 1294 prevents the use of unnecessary restraints on pregnant inmates who are in labor, delivering a baby, during the immediate post-delivery period or during a medical emergency. 

Fleming offered this legislation to protect the health of pregnant women and infants during the vulnerable stages associated with childbirth. The policy is supported by the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and many other medical organizations, who say shackling during the childbirth process is “unnecessary and dangerous to a woman’s health and well-being.” 

Fleming’s experience as a retired obstetrician has driven her to champion a variety of issues related to maternal health, including increasing access to care, addressing provider shortages, expanding postpartum coverage and increasing access to birth control to name a few.  

“This bill is about humane, practical and safe practices when incarcerated individuals are in labor and delivery,” Fleming said. “As an obstetrician who practiced in a large university hospital, we often served women who were incarcerated. Remaining immobilized during the childbirth process is almost impossible.  Restraining can be incredibly dangerous and detrimental to moms and babies and the health and safety of the patients and health care providers.”

According to a 2017 report from the American Psychological Association (APA), restraining women can lead to extreme physical pain and complications as well as mental distress and trauma, increasing the risk for PTSD. The APA report also found no instances of escape by an incarcerated woman who was not shackled during labor. 

“Unnecessary restraints could create an unsafe situation, exacerbating fetal distress and inhibiting rapid intervention,” Fleming explained. “Trying to provide medical intervention on an individual who is restrained is not in the best interest of the patient, the baby or health care providers,” said Fleming. “I’m happy to see the legislature move forward on this issue and provide a pathway that will lead to improved outcomes for maternal and infant health in our state.”

HB 1294 will now move to the Senate for consideration.

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