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How to make childbirth more painful

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Sometimes I come across an outrage so outrageous that I think: "Surely this can't be. Someone has to be making this stuff up."

But, unfortunately, this story is all too true, and something like it might even be happening somewhere near you. It was uncovered in Colorado by Pamela White, the feisty editor of the equally feisty, award-winning alternative newspaper, the Boulder Weekly.

She was doing research in a prison for an article on how pregnant inmates are treated. Not well, it turns out. As one described her experience late in her pregnancy, she was kept in full restraints, including ankle and wrist shackles, as well as a belly belt, while being transported between jails. Then, astonishingly, when she went into labor, she was taken to the hospital where guards — get this — shackled her to the bed, keeping her chained there throughout labor and delivery!

White learned that this abhorrent, painful, humiliating, inhumane and unbelievable treatment was common in some Colorado jails. "I was so sickened," she says, "that I had to do something beyond just writing articles."

So, White took the unusual, extra-journalistic step of hand-carrying the story to some of the state's top lawmakers. "You mean to say that they're kept under guard, and they're chained to their beds?" asked a whopperjawed senator.

Realizing that women in the throes of giving birth are not likely to bolt for the door, appalled legislators asked White — who had become the state expert on this Kafka-esque horror — to draft a bill outlawing it. She did ... and they quickly passed it.

Believe it or not, only nine states have anti-shackling laws for inmates in labor. If you don't live in Colorado, is your state among the nine? If not you might want to take action like Pamela White did. To learn from her experience about how you can help reform the system where you live, go to boulderweekly.com.

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