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Court Orders Pregnant Woman To Bed Rest

Sometimes the level of dysfunction in regards to women’s rights and pregnancy is nothing short of gob-smacking. Take the Florida case of Samantha Burton. Ms. Burton is pregnant. She has two children and in her current pregnancy she is at risk of a miscarriage. She was admitted to the hospital in Florida where her doctors advised bed rest as well until a C-section could be performed. They also insisted that she quit smoking as the affects of smoking complicate pregnancy and increase the chance of miscarriage.

Ms. Burton did not want to quit smoking. She said as much to the doctors. She also explained that with her two toddlers and a job she would lose if she was on bed rest for up to 15 weeks, she was going to get a second opinion. At that point the doctors took it to the State who went to court to have Ms. Burton ordered to bed rest and to undergo “any and all treatments" her doctor ordered in the best interest of the fetus.

Yes, you read that right. An adult woman has been ordered to stay in a hospital where her doctor is hostile to her wishes, to protect the interests of the fetus. The rights of an adult citizen to refuse treatment is being denied because her busybody doctor and a state Judge who does not seem to have a basic understanding of the law think the rights of a fetus trump the rights of an adult.

It gets worse, the court also ordered that Ms. Burton can not switch hospitals. She is being denied the right to choose who will treat her in every particular. To say this is a massive disgrace is to minimize the case. Ms. Burton had no representation at the hearing. She appeared by phone, and the Court did not look at the her medical history nor consider the effect on her two small children.

The Courts reasoning was that this situation is the same as when parents refuse to treat their children medically for religious reasons. The so-called “extraordinary circumstances” test. As if being unable to stay in bed because of a job or two small children are extraordinary or for that matter the miscarriage of a pregnancy. As many as 1/3 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, but since there is a doctor and a judge involved there seems to be something special about this.

That any person serving on a Court would think that it is in societies interest to force citizens who are of sound mind to take treatment they have decided against is a dangerous place for us to go. Obviously this Judge and doctor have fallen into the anti-choice (forced pregnancy?) meme of the Religious Right where nothing in the world trumps the rights of a fetus, not the problems of Ms. Burton, not the other already born children, not the Constitution of the United States or all the case law which clearly points to the mothers rights.

I have to wondeer what the Judge would think if Ms. Burton insisted on ending her pregnancy with an abortion? It is clearly her choice, it resolves the so-called “interests of the fetus” and it is within the law. So far this is not Ms. Burton’s choice, but if the State of Florida keeps insisting as long as there is a fetus they can run and ruin her life and the life of her children, it might come down to that.

As you might guess, the ACLU is in on this case now. Arguments were heard in the 1st District Court of Appeals yesterday. It is hard for me to see how they will not strike down this egregious ruling, yet the damage may done. Just the fact that this kind of case can be heard and decided in this way in the first place is damaging to the idea that a woman can make decisions about her own body.

There is a meme the Religious Right has been pushing that pregnant women are not mentally competent to make a decision like ending a pregnancy. They have even managed to get it sited the Supreme Court decision that upheld the ban on late term abortions. This chips away at women’s basic citizenship rights. By introducing in the law the idea that some citizens, by virtue of their gender, are less able to make choices about medical treatment is a very dangerous and slippery slope. Where does it end?

Can any of you folks really imagine any set of laws that would require men not to treat any ailment? It is variously attributed, but there is some truth in the phrase “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”. This kind of treatment of women as second class citizens is dangerous. It is dangerous to them, it is dangerous to all of us, and it is dangerous to the idea of a free people.

If we start down this path, where does it end? Can not eating right be an offense that would put a woman in the hospital, basically imprisoned against her will and forced to follow the orders of doctors she did not choose? Can having a dangerous profession while pregnant be reason to be fired? What about where women live? Once we open the idea that a fetus’s interests are more important than an adult citizen we have to decide all of these issues.

It is far, far better that we trust our citizens to make the choices that make sense to them. For all that the Right talks about the “government” nosing around in our lives, one of their biggest issues, abortion and so called fetus rights, is the one area guaranteed to crate an unreasonable intrusion.

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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