This morning, Gov. Rick Scott was presented with a bill that has been championed by women’s health advocates that protects the health and reproductive rights of women who are incarcerated in Florida.

The bill, if signed into law, will establish humane and uniform rules for the treatment of pregnant women who are incarcerated in any prison, jail or detention in Florida.

While a handful of similar bills have passed in other states, Florida’s law would be the first of its kind in the South. Reproductive justice advocates in the state have said the bill would be “historic” and would make the state “a leader” for its protection of women in the state.

It was sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and was almost passed last year but failed to make it to a final vote in the House.

The law contains prohibitions on shackling women while they are in labor, as well as other rules for the various stages of a woman’s pregnancy. Advocates who lobbied for the bill have said it would protect the health of pregnant women who are incarcerated across the the board.

The impetus for the legislation came when Florida received an “F” for its shackling policies in an annual “report card” released by the Rebecca Project for Human Rights in 2010.

The group 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 other states also received failing grades.

The bill was championed by midwives, reproductive justice advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida during its passage through the Legislature this year.

The ACLU has been circulating an action alert to supporters asking them to tell Scott to sign the bill into law.

The alert says:

It seems medieval, but it’s happening in Florida today. Under current law, incarcerated women in childbirth can be kept painfully restrained during and after labor. That’s why The Rebecca Project for Human Rights recently gave Florida an “F” for our treatment of pregnant women incarcerated in the state. With the stroke of a pen, Governor Scott could change that.

One of the major victories for civil liberties in Florida during this year’s legislative session was the passage of the ACLU of Florida’s priority Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act. During a legislative session that saw attacks on many facets of women’s health, we were able to secure passage of this bill that would strengthen and defend it.

There are currently no statewide protections in Florida against the barbaric practice of forcing women to remain in restrictive restraints during childbirth. This bill creates those protections. To secure this victory for women in Florida jails and prisons and put an end to the cruel practice of shackling women during childbirth, we need the governor to sign this bill.

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