With issues like the Stupak Amendment and Nevada’s Personhood Initiative in the national spotlight, I am aware that a woman’s right to choose whether or not to carry a fetus to full-term is under attack.
What I didn’t realize, perhaps naively, is that her right to choose how to carry a fetus is also under fire. Last March, Florida resident Samantha Burton was in week 25 of her pregnancy when she paid a visit to her doctor. Burton was showing signs of potential miscarriage, so her physician ordered bed rest. Burton explained that, as a working mother of two toddlers, bed rest simply wasn’t a viable option and then proceeded to ask for a second medical opinion. Seems reasonable, right?
Her doctor, however, was having none of that. Rather than refer Burton for the desired second opinion, he instead felt it necessary to contact state authorities, who then proceeded to force Burton to be admitted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital against her will and undergo any procedure the doctor felt like prescribing. When Burton had the audacity to request a change in the hospital in which she was being treated, the court denied her request. Three days into her forced hospitalization, Burton miscarried.
Never mind that there is actually no scientific research to support the claim that bed rest helps prevent preterm birth and that even the American College of of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not believe it should be routinely recommended. Never mind Burton’s very real concern for the care of her two small children. Never mind the psychological, physical, and financial toll this takes on her family. The only thing that mattered to the doctor and the government was that they got their (ultimately ineffectual) way.
Oh, and did I mention this case gets worse? Burton (with help from her pro bono lawyer and the ACLU) sued the State of Florida claiming it — duh — violated her constitutional rights. The court ruled against her, claiming that that State was merely maintaining “status quo” in the situation. Hmmm. I never knew forcing a woman to bed rest in a hospital was status quo. Perhaps I’ve been ill-informed.
It is scary to think that the government feels it can negate the bodily autonomy of pregnant women for any reason, let alone for something like this. Where does this stop? If a doctor lacking scientific support can force a woman into a hospital of his choosing for the tests of his choosing, what’s next? Certainly it seems as if the bar has been set pretty low in terms of the criteria needed to override a woman’s freedom to make informed decisions for herself.
Burton’ lawyers filed for appeal and the case is now being heard in Florida’s First District Court of Appeals. Hopefully, this time the court will acknowledge the bodily autonomy of pregnant women and reverse the lower court’s frightening and potentially dangerous ruling. I shudder to think of the consequences of the earlier decision being upheld.
I’m absolutely disgusted.