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On September 28, 2012, Governor Brown of California signed Assembly Bill 2530 into law, ushering in a new era of legal protection from shackling during pregnancy.

Beginning January 1, 2013, the new law will prohibit shackling women around the belly, at the ankles, or with handcuffs behind their back throughout pregnancy. The law also prohibits shackling women in any way at all when they are in labor, giving birth, or recovering from childbirth. Medical providers can also order the removal of shackles.

The only exception is if corrections officials determine that an individual woman poses a security threat.

These new protections are important because they recognize that shackling is not only a problem once women go into labor. The law reflects a growing consensus that shackling jeopardizes women’s health, safety, and dignity throughout pregnancy, putting women and their fetuses at risk of injury.

Karen Shain, Policy Director at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, one of the primary forces behind the new law, can’t wait to visit pregnant women and rejoice with them that the Governor finally heard their concerns “about having to wear chains around their bellies while going to court, about being shackled around their ankles while waiting to see a doctor, about standing in countless lines waiting to get on countless buses while handcuffed behind their backs.”

On a more sober note, Shain also reminds us that a law is only as good as its implementation and invites people to join in monitoring implementation to ensure that all state prisons, county jails, and juvenile detention facilities respect women’s rights under the law.

Today, 16 states have laws against shackling: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

If your state isn’t on this list, read more about the twists and turns over seven years in California and the faster road to legislative success in Colorado and get inspired to start a campaign where you live!

Image via Strong Families.

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