JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would prohibit pregnant prisoners from being restrained while giving birth.
The proposal, approved Wednesday through a voice vote, would ban correctional centers and jails from using restraints when a woman is receiving medical care during her third trimester, throughout labor and immediately after birth. Restraints would also be banned during transport. Exceptions would be allowed if the woman was deemed dangerous or a substantial flight risk.
The vote occurred a day after the Missouri House overwhelmingly passed a similar proposal, 135-7. The Senate bill, however, would only apply to jails in a handful of larger counties.
Jail restraint policies are currently set by individual counties and cities. Representatives of sheriff’s departments in St. Louis, Greene County, Boone County and Platte County said their current policies already discouraged using restraints on pregnant prisoners. Rep. Jean Evans, a Republican from Manchester and the House bill’s sponsor, said the Department of Corrections also had a policy opposing shackling.
But policies could always be changed, she said, without the absence of a law restricting the practice.
Republican Rep. Shane Roden of Cedar Hill said the House bill went too far.
“Just because they’re in their third trimester does not necessarily mean that they’re still not a risk,” he said. An “extraordinary circumstance” exception was too subjective, he said, and he thought recent high-profile cases related to shackling hadn’t proved that shackling alone was the problem.
In 2016, Megon Riedel received $50,000 in a settlement with Jackson County after she said she was shackled and handcuffed during a three-hour drive across the state when she was 39 weeks pregnant. She gave birth later that day.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which filed on behalf of Riedel, is also representing Tara Rhodes, who alleged that shackling at the Mississippi County Detention Center contributed to a miscarriage.
The Senate bill needs to be voted on again before it heads to the House, while the House bill now moves to the Senate.
The Senate bill is SB 870
The House bill is HB 2026