Giving birth in chains — my day at the state capitol

    This shouldn’t be part of any woman's prison sentence.

    What a day. It started with a really awful night.

    Y'all know that my body has been through the wringer. There’s the whole falling-of-the-cliff gig. There’s the broken neck thing. And then there’s the gave-birth-to-a-baby-with-a-15-inch-head incident, which tore my cervix, caused permanent damage to my lower spine and even made my hips hemorrhage internally. (Can they really do that? Yes. TMI? Sorry, I’m a journalist. There's never any such thing as TMI.)

    Somehow yesterday I did violence to myself and set off the lower spine problem. I’ve had physical therapy, massage, steroid injections and every other thing that can be done short of that special Klingon spine replacement surgery they do for Worf on Star Trek. I would sign up for trials for that, but no one’s doing them yet...

    To make a boring story shorter, I couldn’t even lie down last night without serious pain. I finally took narcotics and got maybe four hours. What does a newspaper E-in-C do she's been awake all night? She gets up and goes to work.

    Today was our press day — and we made our deadline — but it was also the day I was supposed to meet the president of Colorado’s Senate to see whether there was any chance of getting legislation going to make it illegal to put women inmates in chains when they're in labor.

    And... It went really, really well. I took the packet of materials I had put together out of my own research on the topic, met with him privately in his office, and gave him my impassioned plea to end this practice. He got a funny look on his face and said, “Do you mean to say that they actually shackle a woman by her wrist or ankle to a hospital bed even though she’s already under armed guard?” And I said, “Yes."

    He read through the materials I’d brought and told me that he’d give his approval for the introduction of this as a late bill — we are past the legislative deadline for new bills for 2010 — provided I can find a senator willing to introduce it. Too bad there isn’t really a Reece Sheridan for me to turn to... (for this and other reasons)

    The photo I had in mind for Megan when I wrote Unlawful Contact.

    Elated, I left his office and got lost. Then I got on the elevator and meant to go to a different floor and wondered why the elevator wasn’t moving. Then I realized I kept pushing the button for the second floor... and I was on the second floor. And that explained why the lobbyist in the elevator was giving me strange looks.

    The Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver

    So there’s a lot more to do to get this effort underway, but I feel things are converging. When I got back to the office — which entailed driving through a short blizzard — I found I had a message from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) saying that they had hoped to get legislation rolling about this for next year but that if I already had something underway they’d throw their weight behind it. And so it’s on!

    I feel very happy about this. It’s something I’ve tried to make happen for a long time, but I haven’t been able to persuade a lawmaker to take up the challenge. Now I’ve done the research they’ll need to pass the bill, and I’m willing to throw the newspaper behind it. Is that objective journalism? Do I care?

    Back when the Founders created the First Amendment, newspapers played an advocacy role on behalf of things they believed were important issues. Nowadays “advocacy” is saved for the editorial pages. But sometimes that’s not enough.

    Too many people don’t care about women, and especially about women in prison. I have to change that somehow. I can’t exactly say why this became so important to me, but it is. When my mother told a friend what I was working on, her friend said, “Well, I guess they shouldn't have landed in prison.”

    But birth impacts the baby, too. And no prison sentence should include being chained while doing that uniquely beautiful thing that only women can do — bringing a new life into the world.

    I am staking myself to this one.

    I know it has nothing to do with fiction or Naked Edge, which I’m supposed to be promoting now with tireless zeal. And though it was mentioned in Unlawful Contact through the character of Megan, it really has nothing to do with my novels. But it has to do with what’s important to me on a soul-deep level. And so here it is.

    If you’re interested in checking on or changing the policies in your state, please let me know! I’ll hook you up. If you want me to blog on this topic, baby, I’m all yours.

    Time for more percocet... If only I had some chocolate!

    Now back to your regularly

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