Late last Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill championed by women’s health advocates that establishes humane and uniform rules for the treatment of pregnant women who are incarcerated in any prison, jail or detention center in Florida.
Florida’s law is the first of its kind in the South. Reproductive justice advocates in the state have called the measure “historic” and have argued that it makes the state “a leader” in protecting women.
The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa. An earlier incarnation of the law 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 how women are treated during the various stages of pregnancy. Advocates who lobbied for the bill during this past session — a coalition that included midwives, reproductive justice advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida — have said it will protect the health of pregnant women who are incarcerated in any facility 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 advocacy 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.