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Doctor Gets Court Order to Confine Pregnant Woman Against Her Will

In case those of u who don’t find anything wrong with this, ask yourselves this: where was this woman’s rights? And if it were YOU, how would you take this?  Still think you’re “free”????

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.

PHOTO CREDIT: Daquella Manera

An added article on bedrest during pregnancy:

Is there research showing that bedrest helps?

Few well-designed studies have been done on bedrest, so no one knows whether it’s really useful for any of these problems. Currently, there isn’t enough evidence to confirm or disprove the benefits of bedrest for women with placenta previa, mild hypertension or preeclampsia, cervical insufficiency, or intrauterine growth restriction.

There have also been surprisingly few studies on whether bedrest helps reduce the risk of preterm birth, and a review of the data that are available found no convincing evidence to justify its use. In fact, some research on uncomplicated twin pregnancies actually found that being on hospital bedrest was linked to a higher risk for early delivery. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has concluded that bedrest does “not appear to improve the rate of preterm birth and should not be routinely recommended.”

The bottom line is that more good scientific studies are desperately needed. In the meantime, caregivers disagree on when and how to prescribe bedrest. Some say that until there’s good evidence to the contrary, bedrest is worth a try. Others argue that bedrest itself can have a variety of negative effects and that women should not be subjected to it until we know that it does more good than harm.

These caregivers tend to believe that the use of complete bedrest should be curtailed, and that some women would be better off just taking it easy. That means restricting their activity level, cutting back on work, avoiding heavy lifting and prolonged standing, and resting for a few hours each day, for example.

How can resting in bed be harmful?

Bedrest can actually be hard on your health. Being on complete bedrest for an extended period increases your risk of blood clots. (In some circumstances, a practitioner may prescribe the blood thinner heparin to help prevent clots.) You may also suffer from insomnia, changes in your metabolism, bone loss, and aches and pains.

What’s more, because you don’t use your muscles, heart, and lungs the way you would if you were moving around as usual, they lose strength, leaving you weak and extremely tired. When your bedrest order is eventually lifted, it can take many weeks to get your strength back, which makes it harder to care for a newborn.

Finally, being confined to your bed can be very stressful. The boredom and isolation you’re likely to feel can take a toll on your mental health. In addition, bedrest can be a logistical nightmare and a financial hardship for you and your family. You may have to stop working sooner than you planned or find someone to care for your children. If you’re on complete bedrest, you’ll need to rely on others for everything, including bringing you food and anything else you need.


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