Friday, March 03, 2006

U.S. Women Forced to Give Birth in Shackles

Patriarchy Rules

If you are one of the fools who believes pResident Bush when he speaks endlessly of America as a "civilized" nation, fighting off the crazed and evil brown people, and by the way, we don't torture people -- perhaps you can answer the question below.

What kind of nation shackles and chains women to beds, and even denies them anesthesia, while they are in the throes of childbirth? What's that you say?

A Pro-Life nation?

One of the excuses for the "relatively common" U.S. policy of putting imprisoned women in leg shackles -- while they are giving birth -- is the fear that the women will get up off the delivery table, with baby in vaginal canal, and run -- like full-fledged Amazon women -- for their lives. Of course, there is no record of a woman ever escaping during labor or childbirth. Though I'd sure like to help one of them be the first.

Another fear is that the women might become violent and hurt someone. I know this is a novel idea, but if the women were given a little something for their pain, they might be less inclined to terrorize armed guards, doctors, nurses, and hospital staff while simultaneously giving birth. (!)

Is the idea to enforce the Christian Creation Myth's promise of torturous pain and agony during childbirth?

Have any of the cavemen responsible for this barbaric policy ever given birth?

As somone who has actually given birth, I like to state for the record that forcing women to give birth while weighted down with leg shackles: 1) is torture, 2) is no way to treat a newborn, and 3) is a threat to the physical and mental health of mothers and babies!

All I gotta say is it's a good thing we are not a primitive barbaric nation, else we might have a government in the business of inflicting pain and misery. We might have a pro-life government that tortures people.

It's a good thing we are not a primitive barbaric nation, else we might be a nation with a predominantly female population ruled by a predominantly out-of-touch, crazed, authoritarian, Christian white male government.

New York Times (snippets):

Shawanna Nelson, a prisoner at the McPherson Unit in Newport, Ark., had been in labor for more than 12 hours when she arrived at Newport Hospital on Sept. 20, 2003. Ms. Nelson, whose legs were shackled together and who had been given nothing stronger than Tylenol all day, begged, according to court papers, to have the shackles removed.

Though her doctor and two nurses joined in the request, her lawsuit says, the guard in charge of her refused. "She was shackled all through labor," said Ms. Nelson's lawyer, Cathleen V. Compton. "The doctor who was delivering the baby made them remove the shackles for the actual delivery at the very end."

Despite sporadic complaints and occasional lawsuits, the practice of shackling prisoners in labor continues to be relatively common, state legislators and a human rights group said. Only two states, California and Illinois, have laws forbidding the practice.

"We found this was going on in some institutions in California and all over the United States," Ms. Lieber said. "It presents risks not only for the inmate giving birth, but also for the infant." Corrections officials say they must strike a balance between security and the well-being of the pregnant woman and her child.

"Though these are pregnant women," said Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, "they are still convicted felons, and sometimes violent in nature. There have been instances when we've had a female inmate try to hurt hospital staff during delivery."

Ms. Nelson was serving time for identity fraud and writing bad checks when she gave birth at age 30. She weighed a little more than 100 pounds, and her baby, it turned out, weighed nine and a half pounds.

The experience of giving birth without anesthesia while largely immobilized has left her with lasting back pain and damage to her sciatic nerve, according to her lawsuit against prison officials and a private company, Correctional Medical Services.

"It is unbelievable that in this day and age a child is born to a woman in shackles," Mr. Erato said. "It sounds like something from slavery 200 years ago."

"This is the perfect example of rule-following at the expense of common sense," said William F. Schulz, the executive director of Amnesty International U.S.A. "It's almost as stupid as shackling someone in a coma."

Is anyone surprised to discover that the states that do outlaw the barbaric practice of torturing women and babies during childbirth are . . . blue states? In California the law "prohibits shackling prisoners by the wrists or ankles during labor, delivery and recovery."

Then there is the larger question: Why is it necessary in a pro-life nation to outlaw the torture of women and babies during childbirth? Short and bitter answer: Patriarchy is never pro-life.