Inspired by this open letter to Sarah Palin in regards to how her right to delay her delivery until the time and place she deemed appropriate is born of the same rights that allow abortion, I sought out one of the stories cited therein.
When Laura Pemberton chose to give birth at home in Florida, a Sheriff came to her house. Doctors believed that she was posing a risk to the life of her unborn child by having a vaginal birth after having had a previous c-section and were in the process of getting a court order to force her to have a c-section. The sheriff took her into custody during active labor, strapped her legs together and forced her to go to a hospital where an emergency hearing was taking place to determine the rights of her fetus. She was “allowed” to represent herself. A lawyer was appointed for the fetus. This woman, who vehemently opposes abortion, nevertheless believed in her right to evaluate medical risks and benefits to herself and her unborn child. She was forced to have the unnecessary surgery and when she later sued for violations of her civil rights, was told fetal rights outweighed hers.
The actual decision is here(it’s a pdf). I’d like to pull out some choice portions for you, lest you question the veracity of this summary.
The hospital set in motion a procedure devised several years earlier (and used once previously) to deal with patients who refuse to consent to medically necessary treatment…Mr. Buchanan contacted Second Circuit Chief Judge Phillip J. Padovano, advised him of the situation and of Mr. Buchanan’s intent to file a petition on behalf of the State of Florida seeking a court order requiring Ms. Pemberton to submit to a caesarean section, and requested a hearing.
Judge Padovano ordered Ms. Pemberton returned to the hospital. Mr. Meggs and a law enforcement officer went to Ms. Pemberton’s home and advised her she had been ordered to return to the hospital. She returned to the hospital by ambulance against her will.
Judge Padovano then continued the hearing in Ms. Pemberton’s room at the hospital. Both she and Mr. Pemberton were allowed to express their views. The judge ordered that a caesarean section be performed.
On why Roe is not applicable:
Bearing an unwanted child is surely a greater intrusion on the mother’s constitutional interests than undergoing a caesarean section to deliver a child that the mother affirmatively desires to deliver.
On the risk the doctor’s feared:
The record includes testimony of six physicians on this subject. Five – those whose testimony has been offered by the hospital -uniformly assert the risk of uterine rupture from any vaginal delivery in these circumstances is unacceptably high and the standard of care therefore requires a cesarean. Dr. O’Bryan, for example, placed the risk at four to six percent.
The court then goes on about how dangerous a home birth would have been while neglecting the fact that a vaginal birth in the hospital was not ever offered, only cesarean section–which would explain why she was prepared to complete her labor at home.
They seem to be making the imminence of the birth the issue here, but their logic is the same as the logic of the courts that have jailed women for drug abuse while pregnant. Where is the line once you’re outside of the window of abortion? I hate to go slippery slope but these are questions that must be asked of legislation. The chance of car accidents is a tangible threat, so can we also ban mothers of a certain gestation to hoof it or take the bus–you know, to protect them? What about the various herbs and medications that just don’t go along with pregnancy very well–do we ban the sale of these dangerous things to visibly pregnant women? Should women be forced to have hospital births? After all, there’s always some amount of risk even in a low risk pregnancy. As of now women are able to have home births or attend birthing centers or have midwives, but again–there’s always risk. At what point does this risk become acceptable, and at what point are we comfortable with a judge literally deciding birthing options? What if the Texan governor decided it was in Palin’s best interest that she be forcibly removed to a hospital where her risk of infection, fetal distress, and fetal death would be much lower? Women deserve choice. Choice for abortion, choice for birth, choice for contraception, choice to weigh the risks and benefits and make a decision that isn’t based on medical practicioner’s insurance and liability.