Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Thursday a bill restricting the shackling of female inmates while they are pregnant or during childbirth.
“It blows my mind that I have to sign a law for that,” Patrick said after the bill signing.
Representative Kay Khan, Democrat of Newton, who has repeatedly filed versions of the bill since 2001, said she had heard of a pregnant inmate shackled last week at Boston Medical Center.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said of the bill.
Senator Karen E. Spilka, Democrat of Ashland, who pushed the bill in the Senate, called the practice outrageous and the legislation a “big step forward.”
Spilka and Khan, along with 10 other legislators, joined Patrick for the bill signing, while advocates from the Massachusetts Anti-Shackling Coalition sat in the audience.
“Now the challenge is to ensure that it is implemented as intended, so that no woman in labor is shackled at any time,” said Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “If this campaign did anything, I hope it opened the eyes of corrections officials, so that they realize that shackling a pregnant woman puts her health and her pregnancy at risk.”
The bill says a pregnant inmate, during the second or third trimester or while recuperating after delivering a baby, can be transported to and from visits to medical providers and court proceedings in a vehicle with seat belts and may only be restrained through handcuffs in front. An inmate in labor, “as determined by a licensed health care professional,” cannot be placed in restraints.