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Somewhere, Sharon Dobbins is smiling.

When her obit appeared a few years ago, many of us were taken aback. It came so suddenly. The former state representative was only 44 years old. That's just not enough time.

Among her colleagues in the General Assembly, she was remembered as being a champion of health care. We remember several of her bills, chief among them her attempt(s) to do away with shackling pregnant women as they gave birth in the Arkansas prison system.

Shameful. And barbaric. But that's been policy, even if not practice, for years. Rep. Dobbins sponsored bills to end the policy, and sometimes couldn't even get a second in committee.

In defense of this state's prison health-care providers, and even ourselves, because the system represents all of us, current policy calls for the least restrictive use of restraints necessary during labor. But that still has meant, in some cases, shackles.

Decent treatment of prisoners, and mothers, should be a matter of law, not just changeable policy. Now it seems as though the Arkansas Legislature has caught up to the times, and how.

House Bill 1523 by Rep. Rebecca Petty (R-Rogers) passed the House 96-0. Imagine, former lawmakers wouldn't give this a second, and Rep. Petty gets a 96-0 vote. The bill exempts the prohibition on shackles for female prisoners deemed a "substantial" flight risk or who might harm the baby. Good ideas all around.

Thank you, lawmakers. Thank you Rebecca Petty. And thank you Sharon Dobbins for first bringing this to our attention. You all done good.

Editorial on 03/15/2019

Print Headline: Unchained melody

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