From an American Civil Liberties Union Press Release, August 3, 2009.
"Women do not give up their right to determine the course of their own
medical care when they become pregnant," said Diana Kasdan, a staff attorney
with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
"Faced with similar cases,
courts throughout the country have made clear that pregnant women have a right
to make decisions about their own health, including refusing medical care."
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According to the ACLU, in March 2009, the Circuit Court of Leon County ordered Samantha Burton – a
mother of two suffering from pregnancy complications – to be indefinitely
confined to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and forced to undergo any and all
medical treatments deemed necessary to save her fetus. After three days of
state-compelled hospitalization, Ms. Burton suffered fetal demise and was
released from the hospital.
"We should all be alarmed by Florida’s wholly unwarranted intervention in
Samantha Burton’s care," said Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of
"Not only is it unconstitutional for the state to override a
pregnant woman’s decision to refuse medical treatment, but the medical
community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,
the American Medical Women’s Association, and the American Medical Association,
strongly advises against it."
According to the ACLU’s brief:
"[I]f the decision below stands, it invites
State requests for court intervention in nearly all aspects of pregnant women’s
behavior and medical judgments. In turn, some women will be discouraged from
coming to a hospital for pregnancy care if they know that any disagreement may
lead to forced medical treatment. Such a result does not advance maternal
and fetal health by any measure and is not constitutionally permissible."
The brief in today’s case, Burton v. Florida, No. ID09-1958, was filed in the District Court of Appeal, First District,
State of Florida, on behalf of the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, and the American
Medical Women’s Association. Lawyers on the ACLU’s
friend-of-the-court brief include Kasdan of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom
Project; and Marshall of the ACLU of Florida.