The Florida House today passed a bill that would set uniform and humane rules for the shackling and restraint of pregnant women who are incarcerated. The bill already passed in the state Senate and is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
The bill, which is sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, would prohibit the shackling of a woman in labor and create uniform and humane standards for all jails, prisons and detention centers in Florida. Advocates for the bill have said it would protect the health of pregnant women who are incarcerated across the the board.
Last year, a similar bill passed in the Senate, but was never brought to a final vote in the House before the end of the legislative session.
The bill passed in a 114-1 vote today.
“It has taken two years of hard work and dedication on this bill to get it to this point,” said Reed, in a statement released today. “I feel honored to finally get this important legislation passed in the Florida House to protect our mothers and babies. Women can now feel safer while giving birth no matter their circumstance. It is time we treat all pregnant women in society with greater respect and humility.”
Women’s health and reproductive rights advocates have been among the most vocal proponents of the bill.
In 2010, the state of Florida received an “F” for its shackling policies in a report compiled by the Rebecca Project for Human Rights. The report(.pdf) was meant as a “state-by-state report card and analysis of federal policies on conditions of confinement for pregnant and parenting women and the effect on their children,” and was “intended to help advocates assess their own state’s policies affecting these significant phases of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and parenting.”
The report gave a failing grade to any state that failed to “comprehensively limit, or limit at all, the use of restraints on pregnant women during transportation, labor and delivery and postpartum recuperation.” Thirty-six states, including Florida, received failing grades.