Born in chains

On the one hand:

When [Shawanna] Nelson was six months pregnant, she was incarcerated in Arkansas for passing bad checks. She went into labor during her short sentence. A correctional officer shackled her legs to opposite sides of the bed that transported her to ha delivery room, removing them briefly during a nurse’s examination. Nelson was re-shackled immediately after giving birth to her nine-pound son.

Unidentified woman from San Franciso Bay View story

In her civil suit, Nelson, whose charges were later dismissed:

testified that the shackles prevented her from moving her legs, stretching or changing positions during the most painful part of her labor. She offered evidence that the shackling had caused a permanent hip injury, torn stomach muscles, an umbilical hernia that required an operation and extreme mental anguish.

On the other hand:

The Heart2Heart Birth Center in Sanford, Florida:

Schedule … a pregnancy massage, or join us for our Monthly Materni-Tea Parties for an afternoon session to hear guest speakers on pregnancy and parenting topics. Bring a pregnant friend in and get her a henna belly tattoo, or a belly cast, or shop for a sling in any fabric you choose! We also put together special Pampered Mama Spa Days, where you get to choose between the belly cast or the henna tattoo (wears off in 2-3 weeks!) a luxurious salt soak in our jacuzzi tub, and a light lunch with tea. This service is also included in your Heart 2 Heart Premium Birth Package. While here, visit The Hart Sister’s Tea Room for “High Tea” or to plan your baby shower!

Hard to believe this is the good news, but here it is: “The movement to end labor in chains appears to be gaining momentum,” reports the BBC. In addition to Nelson’s court victories, that includes a Federal Bureau of Prisons policy, the new policy under review in Pennsylvania, and a ban in New York (except in extreme circumstances).

Besides the human rights violations, there are some interesting issues here:

First, the prison system is made for male prisoners, and the procedures here seem to have been taken from the way men are handled when they’re transported or receive medical care.

Second, what about the children born this way? In an odd parallel, the Heart 2 Heart website is all about mothers and their pregnancies, and little about the babies. And the abuse of the women in prison is about abusing them, with what seems like disregard for the children. The babies “birth experience” seems negatively affected as much as the mom’s “birthing experience.” Neither babies – the shackled-moms’ nor the rose-petalled moms’ – have committed any crimes yet.

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