End shackling of pregnant women

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Jane Doe gave birth to her baby in a Montana hospital with her left leg shackled to her hospital bed. Even after a nurse questioned Jane’s guard about the necessity of shackling — given that Jane was immobilized with an epidural — she remained shackled through labor and recovery.

Montana is one of 26 states that still allows incarcerated women in labor to be shackled to their delivery beds and has no requirements for prenatal care. Meanwhile the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association have decried labor shacking because it endangers women and unborn babies. Even the federal penal system has banned the practice.

While female inmates represent a small proportion of those incarcerated, women are the fastest growing demographic, according to the Montana ACLU. Of the 250 pregnant women in Montana prisons each year, most are in prime childbearing years. Although some counties and cities have local policies, many do not, and there is no state requirement.

It is untenable that we are leaving the care of pregnant women and their unborn vulnerable to favoritism — whether they are liked by guards. The overwhelming majority of women in jail are young, challenged with early trauma, and charged with drug possession.

We can change this. There simply has been no will to do so in the Montana Legislature. I am running for House District 5, Whitefish. Join me in making a difference and a change for women and their unborn in Montana.

Cindy Dyson, Whitefish

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