You often hear about fetal rights versus women’s rights in terms of abortion cases but there’s a new case being heard in Florida where the woman wasn’t trying to terminate a pregnancy but she didn’t want the suggested prenatal care. She’s now appealing a judge’s order she stop smoking and stay on bedrest in a hospital when she wanted to go home or even to another hospital, she said.
“TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Samantha Burton wanted to leave the hospital. Her doctor strongly disagreed, enough to go to court to keep her there.
“She smoked cigarettes during the first six months of her pregnancy and was admitted on a false alarm of premature labor. Her doctor argued she was risking a miscarriage if she didn’t quit smoking immediately and stay on bed rest in the hospital, and a judge agreed.”
“Three days after the judge ordered her not to leave the hospital, Burton delivered a stillborn fetus by cesarean section.”
“And six months after the pregnancy ended, the dispute over the legal move to keep her in the hospital continues, raising questions about where a mother’s right to decide her own medical treatment ends and where the priority of protecting a fetus begins.”
” ‘The entire experience was horrible and I am still very upset about it,’ Burton said through her lawyer. ‘I hope nobody else has to go through what I went through.’ ”
“Burton, who declined to be interviewed, is appealing the judge’s order. She isn’t asking for money but hopes to keep her case from setting a precedent for legal control over women with problem pregnancies. She also worries it could prevent women from seeking prenatal care.”
“State Attorney Willie Meggs stands by his decision to seek the court order after being contacted by the hospital. ‘This is good people trying to do things in a right fashion to save lives,’ he said, ‘whether some people want them saved or not.’ ”
….. “But she didn’t like the care she received at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She said her doctor, Jana Bures-Foresthoefel, was brusque and overbearing. Her lawyer said bed rest for difficult pregnancies is a controversial issue because it can cause some complications like blood clots. Abrams said smoking by itself doesn’t cause miscarriages.”
“The mother said she wanted the option to seek care at another hospital or to go home so she could care for her two daughters.”
” ‘I was desperately hoping to receive the care I needed to save my baby,” Burton wrote in her statement. “However, after a few days there, I did not feel I was receiving the care I needed, and instead of being allowed to leave or go to another hospital, I found myself being ordered by a judge to stay at Tallahassee Memorial and submit to all medical care from its hospital staff, whether I agreed or not.’ ”
“The doctor and hospital officials declined to comment, referring calls to the state prosecutor.”
“American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Diana Kasdan said if the ruling stands it could lead to the state virtually taking over the lives of pregnant women, including telling them what they should or should not eat and drink and what medications they must take.”
” ‘It would be a horrible precedent,’ Kasdan said.”
Very interesting questions here: When should the state step in a force a mother to care for herself or the unborn child inside of her? Should a judge have ordered her to stay at the hospital on bedrest? (Essentially also making her quit smoking because you can’t smoke in a hospital bed. I was amazed at the number of people stepping out to smoke dragging IV bags behind them at Emory this summer when I was there with my brother.)
Should she have been allowed to go home for bedrest or switch hospitals?
When does the baby get protection from any harm a mother may be doing it?