New York pays $610,000 to woman who was forced to give birth in handcuffs

New York pays $610,000 to woman who was forced to give birth in handcuffs

Giving birth is hard enough. And while a baby's life is worth labor's grueling pains, sweat, and tears, some women go through it all under abusive conditions, with no support and, in this case, incredibly restrained.

Jane Doe - as she's identified in the lawsuit - received a settlement of $610,000 from New York City and the New York Police Department after officers bound her while she was in labor.

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The woman was arrested February 7 last year in Bronx County Family Court for violating child custody. Her attorney, Katherine Rosenfeld, said the woman overstepped her bounds in an order of protection during a dispute over custody with a previous partner.

Forty weeks pregnant, Jane Doe was escorted to jail in the Bronx where she went into labor hours later. The following morning, authorities took her to New York's Montefiore Medical Center in handcuffs. They also shackled her ankles, a practice that New York City banned in 2009.

When the woman arrived at the hospital, medics requested to undo the restraints, as they could harm both the mother and the child. But one of the officers said shackling was NYPD policy.

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With the doctors' adamant appeals, police removed the shackles. But they only did so minutes before the woman gave birth and replaced them immediately afterward. She fed the child for the first time with cuffs on her wrists and was only unbound hours later in her hospital bed.

In light of the events, a lawsuit was filed against the involved officers, the city and the NYPD, accusing them of unlawful use of restraints, assault, and violating the woman's rights.

Rosenfeld told CNN that Ms. Doe was fearful for both herself and her child: "While she was in the NYPD's custody, Ms. Doe never struggled, resisted, or acted in any way that would even remotely support the use of restraints."

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She also said that Ms. Doe experienced "a horrific violation of her rights by the NYPD during one of the most intimate moments in a woman's life: labor, delivery, and welcoming a new baby in her first day of life."

As a result of the lawsuit, the NYPD has promised to make changes to its patrol guide to make sure woman in late stages of pregnancy, and those giving birth, are safe and medically sound. Detective Sophia Mason said in a statement:

"At the same time, the NYPD will balance these needs with the safety of patients, medical staff, police officers, and others charged with the care and custody of all prisoners." 

The settlement occurred because Jane Doe wanted to ensure that what was done to her would never be done to another pregnant woman again.