Pregnant Woman Fights Court-Ordered Bed Rest
Pregnant Florida woman held as hospital prisoner against her will, loses baby.
Jan. 14, 2010— -- 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.
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 miscarried three days later and was discharged, but now she is taking up the fight over her treatment with the help of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union. They want to strike down the court order that rendered her powerless to make her own medical decisions.
This week, before a three-judge panel in Tallahassee's First District Court of Appeal, Burton's lawyers argued that the Leon County Court order set a "dangerous" precedent.
Critics say the state's intervention could have dark ramifications for other pregnant women who could even be criminalized for drinking a glass of wine or eating unhealthy foods, driving too fast or even failing to take their prenatal vitamins.
"Women do not give up their right to determine the course of their own medical care when they become pregnant," said Diana Kasdan, 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."
"We pursued this appeal for this reason, to set the record straight," she told ABCNews.com.
Lisa Raleigh of the Florida Attorney General's office, who argued that the state exercised due process when it intervened to save the life of Burton's unborn child, did not return calls from ABCNews.com.
Burton, described by her pro bono lawyer as a "quiet woman" who was shying away from publicity, is seeking no monetary damages and has said that she is appealing the court order to help other women.
Burton, who is married, was "actively taking part in prenatal care" when she began to have problems with her pregnancy, according to her lawyer David Abrams, who is also a trained nurse.
She willingly went into the hospital on the advice of her obstetrician, Dr. Jana Bures-Forsthoefel. But Burton argued with her doctor about the length of stay and also about her smoking.
Bures-Forsthoefel did not return calls from ABCNews.com.
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