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Free of indignity: Mothers no longer have to give birth while chained

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Last week, Gov. Ed Rendell ended a barbaric practice in our state's prisons and jails with the stroke of a pen. With the signing of Senate Bill 1074, Pennsylvania joined seven other states in banning the shackling of inmates during childbirth.

The bill represented a rare instance of decency and unanimity among the typically warring tribes of the state Legislature.

Resolutions by the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association denounced the shackling of pregnant inmates, giving risk averse politicians valuable cover.

The bill also united advocates as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Pennsylvania Prison Society, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the Maternity Care Coalition, Pennsylvania NOW and many other groups.

The seven other states that have officially ended the abuse of mothers during childbirth are Vermont, Washington, California, Illinois, New York, New Mexico and -- Texas! Perhaps the 42 states that aren't on the list of those banning the practice have rarely enforced it or don't have it on the books.

We'd instantly become a far more humane country if the states that continued to shackle inmates during childbirth followed the lead of the eight states that have ended the practice.

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