Posted on 06 May 2010.
By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
A measure prohibiting shackles on incarcerated pregnant women during labor received final approval in the Senate Wednesday, and is on its way to the House for consideration. The measure had full bipartisan support by lawmakers, but some GOP lawmakers wanted an amendment acknowledging the ways the bill would benefit the baby as well as the mother.
Senate Bill 193 dictates that the least restrictive shackles will be used during pregnancy while a woman is incarcerated, and further mandates that no restraints will be used during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery. Bill sponsor Sen.Evie Hudak, D-Arvada, said that Colorado needs to adopt a policy similar to the federal government and other states where courts have found that the use of restraints on pregnant women amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
When the measure was debated on Monday, GOP senator Keith King of Colorado Springs said he was shocked to learn of instances when women have been shackled around their waist and handcuffed behind their back, jeopardizing the delivery of a healthy baby to prevent the mother from escaping.
“How many people are going to be fleeing in childbirth? I mean they’re giving birth to a baby. They’re in labor. They’re not going to be going anywhere,” said King.
King wanted the measure to include a legislative declaration—a statement preceding the proposed law that clarifies the reasoning behind enactment—that stated that the policy is necessary to protect both the mother and the baby during childbirth. For King, the declaration was intended to reflect what he felt was the reality of the situation when a mother is in the process of giving birth.
“I see no reason for this [declaration] to be controversial,” said King. “These are mothers who want to give birth to their babies. They want to give birth to a healthy baby…..why can’t we say we care about them both?”
Sen. Bettie Boyd, D-Lakewood, opposed the declaration, alluding to the distinction between an unborn child and a born child and said that the declaration was treading on controversial territory.
“I do have some issue with the part related to fetal pain,” said Boyd. “I like the fact that it talks about a born baby…but prior to the actual birth I object to some of the language.”
Although the legislative declaration was eventually scrapped, the measure passed handily today, with King becoming a co-sponsor of the bill.