Pregnant Woman Fights Court-Ordered Bed Rest

"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."

The state has argued that the court order was necessary because the medical well-being of the fetus was at stake. Burton, they say, had also refused to stop smoking.

Murray Moore, who was appointed special assistant state attorney in the case, would not comment on Samantha Burton's case due to issues of confidentiality.

"It's a good law that allows the state to intervene," said Moore, who works for Pennington Law Firm, which represents Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. "In that case, I was bringing action on behalf of the state to protect the state's interest in saving the child's life."

But, he acknowledged legal intervention is "rare" and "only in the most extreme circumstances."

"Her circumstances are not unusual," countered ACLU lawyer Kasdan. "Women face complications in pregnancy all the time and have to make decisions all the time for themselves, their families and their future child."

"It is hard to imagine anything more commonplace than the inability of a mother of two to remain on continuous bed rest," said the ACLU brief, "or the well-documented difficulty in quitting smoking."

Kasdan also argues that "coercive treatment and disregard of women is counterproductive," a position taken by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

The ACOG opposes such legal interventions, which it says can "create the potential for criminalization of otherwise legal maternal behavior."

Its ethics committee took a formal position in 2005 after a Utah woman who had used cocaine was charged with homicide for refusing the caesarian delivery of a fetus that was ultimately stillborn.

In other cases in 2004, a 28-year-old mentally ill Florida woman was charged with first-degree murder for refusing to undergo an immediate Caesarian section deemed vital for the well-being of the fetus.

And in Pennsylvania, a hospital obtained a court order when a mother of six refused a Caesarian because the fetus had suspected macrosomia, or excessive weight. She fled and later gave birth vaginally to a healthy 11-pound baby.

"Efforts to use the legal system to protect the fetus by constraining pregnant women's decision-making or punishing them erode a woman's basic right to privacy and bodily integrity and are not justified," said ACOG's ethics committee.

Both the ACLU and the American Women's Association, which also filed a friend of the court brief, say legal interventions are never in the best interest of the child and may discourage pregnant women from seeking medical care.

Meanwhile, as Burton waits for a decision from the appeals court, she has said that even though her confinement was only for three days, she wants to help other pregnant women.

"When Samantha had the miscarriage, it was late at night and she was alone and in pain," said her lawyer, Abrams. "She felt no one was paying attention and she doesn't want anyone else to go through this."

"She felt people had stopped listening to her," said Abrams. "She became an incubator for the state and stopped being an adult woman who could make her own decisions. The court order was all about the fetus, not the mother's health. She had no rights."

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