News

In Their Own Words

Nov 23, 2009

“The practice of keeping female prisoners in shackles while they give birth is barbaric. But it remains legal in more than 40 states, and prisoners’ rights advocates say it is all too common… Shawanna Nelson, a nonviolent offender, was 29 years old and six months pregnant when she arrived in Arkansas’s McPherson Unit prison in 2003. When she went into labor, she was taken to a civilian hospital. Although there was no reason to consider her a flight risk, her legs were shackled to a wheelchair, and then, while she went through labor, to the sides of a hospital bed. Ms. Nelson testified that the shackles prevented her from moving her legs, stretching or changing positions during the most painful part of her labor. She offered evidence that the shackling had caused a permanent hip injury, torn stomach muscles, an umbilical hernia that required an operation and extreme mental anguish… Ms. Nelson charged that her Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment had been violated…The ruling should help persuade other courts and state legislatures that the shackling of pregnant prisoners is unconstitutional.”
--“One Protection for Prisoners,” New York Times editorial, October 14, 2009

“Local domestic violence programs in West Virginia offer services to all victims of domestic violence regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, disability, age, etc. No victim of domestic violence is excluded from receiving services, referrals or assistance… The vast majority of women and men in this state understand that violence against women (rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, etc.) occurs in disproportionate numbers and that domestic violence programs in this state are committed to serving all victims of domestic violence.”
-- Sue Julian and Tonia Thomas, “Domestic Violence Issues Misrepresented in Kanawha Judgment, Coverage,” Charleston (WV) Gazette, October 17, 2009

“As an Afghan woman who for many years lived a life deprived of the most basic human rights, I find unbearable the thought of what will happen to the women of my country if it once again falls under the control of the insurgents and militants who now threaten it.… Handing over Afghanistan to those who intend to keep the country centuries behind most of the world – to men who do not view women as human beings – would not only call into doubt the global commitment to human rights, it would also raise questions about the commitment of Western democracies to such rights and to democratic values… The people of Afghanistan, and most fervently its women, desire a long-term and consistent relationship with the United States and European democracies. We do not want to become another Vietnam. We want to be an example of the success of global commitment to making the world a better and safer place for everyone, from New York to London to Helmand.”
--Wazhma Frogh, “Risking a Rights Disaster,” Washington Post, October 18, 2009

“Unregulated fertility is an under-recognized global crisis… Individuals and societies pay an incalculable toll in emotional trauma, illness and lost productivity… When a woman can regulate her fertility, it affects not just the number of children she has, but also the timing and spacing of those kids, who benefit from their mother’s better health, time, attention, and having a greater share of scarce resources… Empowering reproductive health is low hanging fruit. In helping women and their families prevent unintended pregnancies and space out births, we improve outcomes in every area of human endeavor.”
--Ashley Judd, “Without Family Planning Poverty Will Spread Across the Globe, and Children Will Die,” USA Today, November 10, 2009