Sufrin, Carolyn

AB 2530: California Must Stop Shackling Pregnant Women

By Carolyn Sufrin, MD, MA

Late one night, I was helping a woman deliver her baby at a hospital in Pennsylvania. It was a familiar delivery room scene—except that the mother-to-be was shackled to the bed.

She was incarcerated at a nearby prison, and though I had no idea what got her there, I had some idea that the pangs of labor and the epidural's numbing effects precluded the need for restraints. I saw signs of fetal distress, and worried about the metal chains if we needed to do an emergency cesarean section. Thankfully, she pushed her baby out, and I placed the baby into mom's one unshackled arm.

I now practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist at the San Francisco County Jail and at San Francisco General Hospital, where jailed pregnant women deliver their babies.