Why I'll Never Have Kids, Part MMMCCXVIII
No, this isn't an abortion-rights story. It's something even scarier:
For three days, a pregnant Samantha Burton was confined to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital against her will, ordered by a Florida court to bed rest and any medical care necessary to sustain her troubled pregnancy.Anything including the neglect of the children she already has. Burton miscarried three days later, and was released. Had she not lost the baby, she presumably would have remained imprisoned at the hospital until giving birth three months or so later. She's now suing with the help of the ACLU, not for money but to ensure no other woman suffers what she did:
Burton was in her 25th week of pregnancy in March 2009 when she began to go into premature labor and willingly went to the hospital on the advice of her doctor.
But when the 26-year-old resisted -- learning that she might have to stay months until her delivery, away from two toddlers at home -- hospital officials obtained a court order to force Burton to submit to anything to "preserve the life and health of [her] unborn child."
Burton was never offered a second opinion or any compromises, such as a nursing home or less restrictive facility, according to [her lawyer David] Abrams. At one point a friend who lived near the hospital had offered to take Burton in ....When Burton refused to stay, the hospital called the state, which appointed the hospital lawyer to prosecute the case and got an order from the Leon County Court.Burton's doctor, Dr. Jana Bures-Forsthoefel, did not comment on the case or her willingness to forcibly convert adult patients into her legal wards. Nor does the story mention if any of Bures-Forsthoefel's other pregnant patients decided to find themselves another doctor with more respect for their decisions. Lawyers for the hospital and Florida attorney general's office insist they did what was right, good and legal to Protect The Unborn.
Burton was appointed a lawyer "after the fact," said Abrams.
"The court order was so broad it was one of civil commitment," he said. "It basically said any treatment deemed necessary to respect the fetal health and made her a ward of her doctor."
"This was not refusal of medical care, it was about who decides and in what setting," he said. "When I walked into her hospital room I saw no monitor, she was alone in a bland room, not unlike a prison cell, not the kind of place you'd want to spend three months alone in separated from your family."
What are the implications if this ruling is allowed to stand? Abortion is still legal through the twelfth week of pregnancy, so presumably no doctor could force a woman into hospital confinement then. But the minute she reaches her thirteenth week of pregnancy she cedes all right to make medical decisions -- or even decide where she lives -- if any such decision might threaten the life or health of the fetus.
Of course, the only women who'd risk imprisonment during their last six months of pregnancy are the ones who register on some doctor's radar by seeking regular pre-natal care, as Burton did. The law would make such responsible behavior foolish for any woman worried about her right to live freely at home rather than as a captive. Those valiant protectors of Burton's miscarried child all call themselves "pro-life," but their callous disregard for Samantha Burton, her husband and their two young children shows how clearly they believe "life" not yet out of the incubator is more important than lives already born.