Washington State Says No to Shackles on Women during Labor and Childbirth

Rachel Roth

Washington becomes the seventh state to limit the shackling of pregnant women in prison.

On March 23, Washington governor Chris Gregoire signed a law to prevent the shackling of pregnant women during labor and childbirth, after a successful campaign that included testimony by women who spoke out about what happened to them when they were imprisoned.


The new law offers protection to incarcerated women and teens throughout Washington, whether they are being held in state prisons, county or city jails, or juvenile prison facilities.

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Under the law, corrections personnel cannot use restraints of any kind on women who are in labor or giving birth. Throughout the third trimester of pregnancy and during postpartum recovery, they can use limited restraints on women under “extraordinary” circumstances. This exception requires an assessment that an individual woman poses a risk of harm to herself or others, or is likely to escape.


Pregnant women are never to be restrained with leg irons or waist chains.


This law is the seventh such statute to be adopted in the United States. The other six states that restrict shackling by statute are Illinois, California, Vermont, New Mexico, Texas, and New York.


Pennsylvania may soon join this list. The State Senate unanimously passed a similar measure on March 17. As the sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill said, “This is not something that happens every day, but this is something that could happen on any given day.” His explanation and the wide margins by which legislators vote for these bills show a growing understanding of the need for oversight to deter jail and prison personnel from restraining women during labor and childbirth.


These restraints are painful and interfere with women’s ability to move during labor. They interfere with medical care, and go beyond interference to endanger women when emergencies arise, because it takes time to unlock and remove handcuffs, ankle restraints, and other hardware used to shackle women to hospital beds.


Women describe the experience of being shackled during labor and childbirth as deeply frustrating and humiliating. In the words of Casandra Brawley, who is suing the Washington Department of Corrections for shackling her during labor, “I had committed a crime and made mistakes in my life, but I am still a human being. I was treated like a caged animal. No other woman should have to experience what I went through.”


Being restrained during labor and childbirth is only one of the things that pregnant women in prison go through. Legislators who recognize the need to regulate shackling should continue to investigate the conditions of confinement for pregnant women. These conditions include inadequate prenatal care and the failure to respond to pregnancy-related medical emergencies, both of which jeopardize the health and safety of women who are in the government’s custody.


For more information on the Washington law, see the web site of Legal Voice.

Analysis Politics

You’ve Got Your ‘Panties in a Wad,’ Sarah Palin Says of Those Who Claim ‘War on Women’

Adele M. Stan

Palin closed CPAC with a speech that demonstrated the right's women problem: It's hard to win women when you can't help insulting them.

Read more of our coverage on the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference here.

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of right-wingers of all stripes, is often a raucous game of competition between various wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

While the same tensions were on display, beginning on Thursday with an opening salvo by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), at this year’s CPAC—conservatives versus “the GOP establishment,” religious-right types versus libertarians—the customary giddiness was missing from the jousting, now with the 2014 midterm election campaigns for Congress well underway.

But some things never do change. As it has ever been, CPAC is a man’s game, even as leaders of the Republican Party, in the wake of its unprecedented assault on women’s rights and reproductive justice over the last four years in state legislatures and in the U.S. House of Representatives, seek to convince women that the party knows what’s best for them.

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Of the 25 speakers featured on the website for this year’s conference, three are women.

Of the 2,459 CPAC registrants who participated in the conference’s annual presidential straw poll this year, 63 percent are men, and 37 percent are women. (Sen. Rand Paul [R-KY] won.)

Yet when Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and the first Republican woman to run on a presidential ticket, took the stage as CPAC’s big closer Saturday, she devoted about one-third of her speech to refuting charges by Democrats of a Republican “war on women.”

After complaining that liberals had “gotten their panties in a wad” and their “skirts tangled up over their heads” after Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame expressed “his devout Christian views on a television show about his devout Christian family” (actually, Robertson said that “homosexuality” leads to bestiality), Palin complained that the same “fainting-couch liberals” who got Robertson suspended from his show are “whining that we disrespect women.”

“They seem to think that the women of America are cheap dates,” Palin said. “Feed ‘em a few lines about that free birth control, throw in some scary quotes about the war on women, and they will be yours.”

Palin was apparently referring to the requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services that health-care plans offered by employers to employees as part of their compensation cover prescription contraceptives with no co-payment, which does not make the prescriptions “free,” but rather items covered by the insurance premium, whose cost, in most employer-employee arrangements, is paid partly if not fully by the employee.

The “war on women” is a broad term that is generally understood to refer to Republican opposition to the contraception insurance mandate, the target of two Supreme Court cases, and a Republican-led offensive against abortion access that has seen more restrictions passed at the state level in the last two years than in the two decades that preceded them.

The former governor, in her “cheap date” remarks, echoed a theme noted by Rewire’s Emily Crockett in a speech delivered earlier that day by CPAC Co-Chair Carly Fiorina.

Palin called Republican women a “sisterhood” that claims as its matriarchs Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. “Oh, this sisterhood so believes in and respects the power and purposeful potential of every woman, so much so that we’re the party with the plank that protects even our littlest sisters—in the womb,” she said.

She painted President Barack Obama and Democrats as those who are “enticing girls to think that they need these guys to grow government to take care of them.” Enticing.

Pretending to speak only to the women in the room (after telling the men to play a video game on their cell phones), Palin said, “Girls, we know better than to fall for that victimization line from the president and his party. … I know you know better, but if you have a friend or a sister or a roommate falling for this hooey, ya gotta set ‘em straight. Ask them, who’s really stereotyping you? Is it the people who believe that you are a thinking, achieving, striving, strong individual, or those who put you in a box and they define you still by body parts?”

She suggested that supporting Obama and the Democrats might be the kind of thing one might not feel so great about in the morning.

“Women, don’t let them use you, unless you choose to be their political pawn, or just your piece of accessory on their arm,” Palin said, emphasizing the first syllable of “accessory” and pronouncing it like “ass-essory.”

“Honey, that’s not liberation; that’s subjugation,” she added.

The speech was classic Palin, this time complete with a bad parody of Green Eggs and Ham:

I do not like this Uncle Sam

I do not like his health-care scam…

I won’t torment you with the rest.

Of course, her remarks were rife with barbs at the president. When she wasn’t painting him as a player looking for a cheap date, she took swipe at his manliness, especially in contrast to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, joking that Obama might poke the Russian with his pen.

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke,” she said, paraphrasing an oft-repeated line delivered earlier that day by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, about how best to stop a bad guy with a gun. (More guns, naturally.)

At the beginning of Palin’s speech, members of the media were given flyers advertising Palin’s new television show, Amazing America, scheduled to begin on April 3 on the Sportsman Channel, a sort of all-guns-all-the-time cable outfit (except on Friday, which is apparently archery day, and Sunday, which features some fishing shows).

Throughout the conference, speakers had a funny way of showing their appreciation for women. In what was billed as an homage to Firing Line, the long-ago debate show hosted by the late William F. Buckley, author and rhetorical bomb-thrower Ann Coulter debated blogger and author Mickey Kaus, who was billed as a liberal, an assertion many liberals view as debatable in and of itself. (Video here.) Coulter, one of the few women to grace the CPAC stage, suggested that the shaming of poor people is a good thing, and that it should not be shameful to say to poor people “keep your knees together before you’re married.” (By “poor people,” she apparently meant poor women. Rich people on the other hand, do what you please.)

Coulter also suggested that if immigration reform passes, those who supported it should submit themselves to “death squads.”

The day before, Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who recently suggested that the only kind of women who wanted birth control from “Uncle Sugar” were those who couldn’t “control their libidos,” brought fire and brimstone to the CPAC stage, citing a quote from Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, who, according to Huckabee, said that God would have to apologize to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, cities said to have been destroyed by God for sexual iniquity, “if He did not bring fiery judgment on the United States of America.”

Huckabee was introduced by Rev. James Robison, whose anti-choice ministry is based on the fact that he was conceived in rape.

Later in the day, Huckabee hosted a screening of his 2012 anti-choice movie The Gift of Life, which was produced by Citizens United, the group for which the 2010 Supreme Court decision is named.

On an all-woman panel titled, “Why Conservatism is Right for Women: How Conservatives Should Talk About Life, Prosperity & National Security,” Crystal Wright of the Conservative Black Chick blog complained that the leadership of the Republican Party wasn’t doing enough to recruit women to run for Congress. (Video here.) But the same could have been said for the leadership of CPAC, and its failure to recruit women speakers.

Robin Abcarian, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, did a count of all the speakers on the CPAC stage (not just the 25 featured speakers mentioned at the beginning of this article), and found that of the 163 speakers and panelists on the CPAC 2014 schedule, only 35 were women.

“That’s a 57-point gender gap, people,” Albercain wrote. “If Republicans have any hope of stopping the Democrats’ blockbuster narrative that they are waging a war on women, they must first solve their own war of attrition on women.”

Or, they could try Palin’s approach.

“C’mon libs, can you really sing, ‘I am woman, hear me…’?” she asked, singing that half a line rather badly. “No, because donkeys just bray. Only Mama Grizzlies can say, ‘Hear me roar.’”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian’s last name. We regret the error.

News Abortion

State of Alabama Harasses and Seeks to Close Abortion Clinic, While Women Die Needlessly in Childbirth

Ann Rose

New Woman All Women in Birmingham Alabama is the abortion clinic bombed by Eric Rudolph in 1998 resulting in the death of a police officer and the maiming of a nurse. It has now been "bombed" by the Alabama Department of Public Health under the direction presumably of anti-choice Governor Robert J. Bentley, a dermatologist.

Cross-posted with permission from Daily Kos.

New Woman All Women in Birmingham Alabama is the abortion clinic bombed by Eric Rudolph in 1998 resulting in the death of a police officer and the maiming of a nurse. It has now been “bombed” by the Alabama Department of Public Health under the direction presumably of anti-abortion Governor Robert J. Bentley, a dermatologist.  

In February, the clinic transferred two patients to the hospital because of a medication error. The transfer was routine and based on good medical care. The anti-choice protesters followed the ambulance harassed the patients and got their private medical information.  The patients were never in any danger and were released with no complications. The protesters then pressured the Alabama Department of Public Health to investigate the clinic. ADPH spent over 4 weeks in the clinic investigating and digging and coming up with 76 violations, one of which was failure to read the doctor’s handwriting and cited 10 or so different ways. They ordered the clinic closed by May 18th.

The owner Diane Derzis, a longtime friend of mine, reached an agreement with the state for someone else to take over the management of the clinic by granting a license to another party to keep the clinic open. Now, the state is saying that they are denying the license because the new owner is closely involved with Diane, and Diane stands to still profit from the clinic because rent is tied to revenues, a process that happens in many malls in this country.

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According to WSFA.com

In its denial of a license, the ADPH said, “It is clear that this arrangement would allow the former operator to remain involved in the center’s financial affairs and to be entitled to all the profits from the continued operation of the center; it does not allow for the proposed new operator to independently operate the center. “

It is clear to anyone with half a brain that this action is politically motivated. Trust me, Diane is pretty darned burned out on all of this harassment in Alabama and welcomes the thought of not having to deal with clinic affairs there any more.

If Alabama really really cared about women, they would investigate the many deaths of women in childbirth. Nearly 12 Alabama women die from maternal mortality for every 100,000 live births. The ADPH should plant themselves for a month in each and every facility where a woman died from giving birth.  

Instead, they went on a witch hunt with the express purpose of shutting down this abortion clinic. The safety of women had nothing to do with this investigation. If every doctor’s office were closed because someone couldn’t read the doctor’s handwriting, I’m afraid none of us would have any healthcare.

By the way, to add insult to injury, Diane Derzis was also recently assaulted by an anti-abortion protester Jeff White outside the clinic. This took place in front of a Birmingham policeman sitting in a police car who refused to arrest him. You can watch the video here for yourself.  It’s at the 7:24 mark.  

Note also that the protester was trespassing on clinic property for most of the video.

If you’re as disgusted by all of this as I am, here’s what you can do:

From Voices of Choice:

Dear Volunteers,

Diane Derzis is need of some support. Anti Abortion bullies have been videotaped in what appears to be trespassing on to clinic grounds, destroying property, and then physically assaulting Diane. All while Birmingham police Officer Virgil Kinnell sits in his cruiser in front of the clinic.

Jeff While is the individual that is on the tape actually shoving Diane. The clinic has also been targeted by Janice Nelson, Terry Gensemer, David Lackey, and Craig Philpot.

Please contact the anti-abortion bullies listed below.

1) Ask them to please stop harassing people at the New Woman All Woman clinic in Birmingham, AL. 2) Let them know that while we are all protected by the first amendment, none of the Voice of Choice members has shown up at their homes or work places with graphic posters. 3) Ask them if they think men should hit women that work in health care clinics. 4) Ask them if they like the unsolicited opinions of strangers.

When you call DO NOT ARGUE WITH THEM. Do not talk about religion or politics. Do not leave a message. Be polite!

So that we all have a chance to participate we need to do this in shifts. If you have not already called please start today. If you have already called, thank you.

Jeff White (and wife Janis) 909-337-2495   JLWhite@peoplepc.com jw202k@gmail.com

Terry Gensemer (and wife Patti) Work 205-786-2805 Cel 205-253-0159 home 205-798-8209

Janice Nelson 205-999-1141

David Lackey 205-914-1656

Craig Philpot  home 205 982 3077 but please try work first 205.271.8000. He is a doctor in Birmingham and we would like to know how his staff feels about his hobbies.

Thank you,

So, both of these incidents prove beyond any doubt that the state is after this clinic, and probably every other clinic in Alabama. If one clinic is closed due to anti-abortion pressure, then all are in danger. We cannot let this trend continue. This is a most egregious assault in the continuing War on Women.

Diane is also the owner of the last remaining clinic in Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is also in danger of being closed due to an insane law just signed by the governor which requires the clinic doctors to have local hospital admitting privileges.  The kink in this law is that none of the Jackson hospitals will give them privileges, even though they are well qualified OB-GYNs. One local supportive doctor who helps with complications is even being singled out by State officials who are trying to keep him off of the Board of Health.

To complain to Alabama health department officials, here is the contact information:

Dr. Donald E. Williamson, State Health Officer
Phone: (334) 206-5200
Email: sho@adph.state.al.us
Email: DrDonaldWilliamson@adph.state.al.us

Dr. Walter T. Geary, Medical Director, Bureau of Health Provider Standards
Phone: (334) 206-5366
Email: wt.geary@adph.state.al.us

Brian Hale, Legal Counsel
Phone: (334) 206-5209


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