The newsletter of the United Methodists’ General Board of Church and Society is out today with, among other things, a column protesting the practice of shackling women prisoners in childbirth. Heather Rice, a blogger with the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and Associate Director of Policy for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, writes:

Forty states in America do not have a prohibition against shackling women prisoners during childbirth.

This is a shameful practice that strips away the dignity from the sacred moment of welcoming a new life into the world and increases danger to the health and well-being of both the child and mother. My own state, Virginia, is one of them.

In our Christian faith, the sanctity of human life is established in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him.” In particular, the newborn child bears within himself the divine image, the image of the Christ child. Imagine Joseph frantically preparing a stable for pregnant Mary as the humble welcoming place for a new life. The human story behind Christ’s birth demonstrates that every mother and every child should experience a degree of dignity in the moment of birth….

In my own state, Virginia, legislation that would have prohibited the egregious practice of shackling women prisoners during childbirth was considered this year. I testified in support of the bill at the initial subcommittee hearing in my capacity as Associate Director of Policy at NRCAT. For me this was not just a professional issue, but as an evangelical, a deeply held personal one as well.

The bill passed unanimously in the subcommittee. Unfortunately, rather than choosing to protect the sacredness of birth and safeguarding infants, the full committee defeated the bill. The chairwoman did agree to write a letter to the Va. Dept. of Corrections recommending they look further into the issue.

I pray they do the right thing.

As evangelicals, we should not tolerate a situation that forces women to welcome their children into the world in chains.

Now, I happen to agree with her. I can’t conceive of any reason why, if a woman is properly guarded in the delivery room, there should be any reason for shackles. This sounds to me like one of those “we have to treat men and women equally” things that refuses to take the differences between the sexes seriously. But here’s the things that really gets me: look who it is that’s trumpeting this article.

The GBCS is a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights, and one of the most vociferous proponents of partial birth abortion. That being the case, the idea that the agency would reprint an article taking a public policy position based on the sanctity of life is the height of absurdity. “The human story behind Christ’s birth demonstrates that every mother and every child should experience a degree of dignity in the moment of birth,” but apparently not in the moment just before birth. Church and Society leaders are against shackling women during childbirth, but are perfectly happy for women to see doctors in order to have those same children ripped apart in the womb moments before childbirth would take place.

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