The past year has brought multiple crises – from the continued murder of Black people by law enforcement, to the direct and collateral harms of COVID-19, to systematic efforts to restrict the fundamental right to vote, and more.
Thanks to ACLU supporters like you, we stood ready to face these crises – and we are ready for whatever comes next.
For the rest of this month, we invite you to tune in as we share some of our accomplishments from the past year. While we achieved many successes in 2020, much work remains before we can consider South Carolina a state where We the People means everyone. Thank you for being part of this work.
Read more about this work:
Advocating to End the Torture of Incarcerated Pregnant People
COVID-19 resulted in a furlough of the South Carolina General Assembly for a majority of its session and put much of our 2020 legislative agenda on hold. However, acting under pressure from us and our coalition partners, our legislature used some of their limited time together to prioritize the well-being of pregnant people who are incarcerated and pass one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the nation on this issue.
The initial version of the bill, introduced in the SC House of Representatives, limited the types of restraints that can be used on pregnant people who are incarcerated and virtually abolished the practice of shackling people during labor, childbirth, and postpartum recovery.
The bill was amended in the Senate to further expand these protections. In addition to limiting shackling practices, the amended bill called for South Carolina’s prisons, jails, and work camps to:
- Provide pregnant people adequate nutrition and a bottom bunk;
- Prohibit the use of solitary confinement on pregnant people in most circumstances;
- Ensure the availability of menstrual hygiene products and that menstrual hygiene products be made available at no cost for those who cannot afford to pay; and
- Authorize weekly contact visits between incarcerated mothers with low or minimum-security classifications and their children once it is safe for in-person visitation to resume.
The final version of the bill, which passed unanimously through both chambers of the legislature, was signed into law in May by Governor McMaster.
The practice of shackling incarcerated people while they are pregnant, in labor, giving birth, and recovering from birth is barbaric and has been opposed by the nation’s leading experts in maternal, fetal, and child healthcare. We are honored to be part of the coalition which moved our state forward on this issue. This coalition was comprised of criminal justice and reproductive health advocates, including the ACLU of South Carolina; ANSWER Coalition; the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN); the South Carolina Perinatal Association; Justice Carolina; and the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network. Additionally, we partnered with OB-GYN Dr. James Cook of Prisma Health, who cares for pregnant people incarcerated in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
We are thrilled that the South Carolina Legislature has ended this cruel and inhumane practice, greatly increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes for incarcerated parents and their newborn children.