Suit filed on behalf of Palmyra woman Athena Remlinger who claims she was shackled during child birth at Hershey Medical Center
In a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Samantha Melamed, Palmyra woman Athena Remlinger shared her claims that she was shackled to a bed at Hershey Medical Center and given medicine that induced labor, despite her explicit requests to the contrary.
Remlinger went into custody in April 2017 after she and her husband, Shawn Remlinger, were apprehended on charges of burglary, aggravated assault, criminal trespassing, and conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary and aggravated assault. Remlinger was incarcerated at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility, located in South Lebanon by the Home Depot.
The suit claims that Remlinger found out she was pregnant after being incarcerated April 6. It states that, “Her pregnancy was deemed high risk for a number of reasons, including a prior gastric bypass and her history of heroin addiction necessitating the use of methadone.” Remlinger claims that she had been held in a medical cell–functionally solitary confinement–from the period of discovering the pregnancy until October, 2017.
On October 16, 2017, Remlinger found out that a scheduled court appearance for October 17 had been cancelled. The claim alleges that the appearance was cancelled because LCCF had scheduled her pregnancy to be induced on that day at the Hershey Medical Center. Remlinger claims that induction had never been mentioned to her prior to October 17, nor did she at any time give consent to be induced.
The suit names Warden Robert J Karnes as well as nine other correctional officers (including 5 John Does). Defendants Corrections Officer Gettle and Corrections Officer Schwartz are said to have transported Remlinger to the Hershey Medical Center at 7:00am on October 17, at which point she began receiving induction drugs and was allegedly shackled to the bed, as well as a rocking chair in the room.
Shackling a pregnant woman would appear to be in flagrant violation of Pennsylvania 2010 Act 45, which says in part:
The application of restraints to a pregnant prisoner or detainee occurring pursuant to section 5905 (relating to healthy birth for incarcerated women) shall constitute an incident that qualifies as an extraordinary occurrence that must be reported to the department in the County Extraordinary Occurrence Monthly Report.
In addition to the specific standard for pregnancy, the claim also argues that even if Remlinger hadn’t been pregnant, there was no demonstrable evidence that she represented a flight risk, and as such should not have been subject to shackling.
Remlinger told the Inquirer’s Melamed,
I felt like I was a caged animal. I had no family with me, my husband didn’t even know I was being induced. I had two guards with me, and I knew damn well they didn’t care. I was alone.
LCCF’s Karnes disputed the facts as presented in the filing, saying simply that they are not accurate. There is no scheduled court appearance at present.