By LISA BELKIN
January 12, 2010
Arguments are under way today in the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, Fla., in the case of Samantha Burton, who was confined to her bed by a judge earlier this year because she was at risk for a miscarriage.
Burton was in her 25th week of pregnancy in March 2009 when she started showing signs of miscarrying. Her doctor advised her to go on bed rest, possibly for as long as 15 weeks, but she told him that she had two toddlers to care for and a job to keep. She planned on getting a second opinion, but the doctor alerted the state, which then asked the Circuit Court of Leon County to step in.
She was ordered to stay in bed at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and to undergo “any and all medical treatments” her doctor, acting in the interests of the fetus, decided were necessary. Burton asked to switch hospitals and the request was denied by the court, which said “such a change is not in the child’s best interest at this time.” After three days of hospitalization, she had to undergo an emergency C-section and the fetus was found dead.
Burton’s pro bono attorney, David H. Abrams, with a lot of help from the American Civil Liberties Union took the case to a higher court, charging that a dangerous precedent had been set. In a brief filed in the case, A.C.L.U. lawyers argue that the original decision unlawfully expanded the court’s right “to order medical treatment for a child over a parent’s” objections and applied it to an unborn fetus. “To ignore this fundamental constitutional distinction between the state interest in protecting fetal life and its interest in the protecting the lives and health of people is to risk virtually unfettered intrusion into the lives of pregnant women.”
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source: The New York Times Motherlode