Court Ordered Interventions
The World Health Organization recognizes that, although there is no evidence for an optimal rate of cesarean deliveries, a growing body of evidence suggests that rates exceeding a threshold of 15% carry increased risks for maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Yet, as of the CDC's most recent data, approximately 32.8% of all US births are by cesarean delivery, accounting for approximately 1.3 million cesareans a year. While the overwhelming majority of these are not the result of court orders, NAPW and its staff have been involved in a number of cases where anti-abortion arguments have been used to justify c-sections that were forced upon pregnant women. This section of the web site provides information about both court-ordered interventions as well the ongoing debate about the extent to which women are able to make real, informed medical choices regarding all aspects of their reproductive health, including the cirucmstances of birth and delivery.
Rinat Dray, was forced to have cesarean surgery over her express objections. With NAPW’s help, Ms. Dray obtained significant media coverage of her situation and filed a lawsuit against the hospital and two physicians. In its defense, the hospital argues that since a woman in New York can be prohibited from having an abortion after a certain point in her pregnancy, she may also be denied every other right including the right to bodily integrity and the right to refuse surgery. According to the hospital, this means that doctors may substitute their decisions for that of pregnant patients. Unfortunately, a NY trial court issued a ruling that adopts this view. This ruling is particularly disappointing and dangerous because it suggests for the first time that pregnant patients may be forced to undergo surgery without even a pretense of due process – without a court order and based solely on a hospital employee’s opinion about what might be better for a fetus. In October of 2016, NAPW filed an amicus brief in support of Ms. Dray's appeal on behalf of more than 40 experts and organizations. Read the full brief here.
On January 20, 2007, Ms. Laura Pemberton generously spoke at the National Summit to Ensure the Health and Humanity of Pregnant and Birthing Women, held in Atlanta, Georgia.
NAPW’s video How Personhood USA & The Bills They Support Will Hurt ALL Pregnant Women and an earlier version making similar points are attracting the attention of anti-abortion organizations who are seeking to advance "Personhood" Measures across the country. These measures would grant the “unborn,” from the moment of fertilization, full personhood status under state constitutional law. Such measures would not only be used as a basis for ending the right to choose an abortion, they would also provide a basis for depriving pregnant women going to term of their rights to liberty, bodily integrity, medical decision-making and even life.
Judie Brown, president and founder of the American Life League (“ALL”), claims in a commentary entitled Life of the Mother or Lies of Big Brother, that our video is a “fairy tale,” and ALL’s video response, Laws, Lies and Videotape, purports to “point out half truths and outright lies” in our work.
NAPW responds to each of ALL’s points in our piece, American Life League: Anti-Abortion “Personhood” Measures Really Will Hurt ALL Pregnant Women: Download file
We appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate with even greater detail why it is that organizations committed to advancing a true culture of life, one that values the women who give that life, would join us in opposing Anti-Abortion Personhood Measures.
John and Amber Marlowe are pro-life parents who participated in the March for Women's Lives in 2004 because of their experience with a forced cesarean surgery. The Marlowe's realized that their rights were negated during pregnancy because the fetus was given rights.
You can read their story in their own words.
The documents from their court case are also available: Download file
The USCCB says that its political positions are based on the belief that “all human life is sacred." They cite this quotation from Archbishop John Roach, as the expression of their guiding vision: "We are committed to full legal recognition of the right to life of the unborn child, and will not rest in our efforts until society respects the inherent worth and dignity of every member of the human race." Yet an examination of the USCCB’s public positions in two high profile legal cases, described in the chart below, raises a key question: Does the USCCB believe that all human life – except that of pregnant women -- is sacred?
Dowload Chart comparing USCCB positions in the Schiavo and Carder cases:
See also, Lori R. Freedman, PhD, Uta Landy, PhD, and Jody Steinauer, MD, MAS, When There’s a Heartbeat: Miscarriage Management in Catholic-Owned Hospitals, 98 American Journal of Public Health 1774 (2008).
In an excellent commentary in April 2006, Gene Declercq and Judy Norsigian challenge the myth that mothers are fueling the trend toward elective Caesareans. Read Mothers aren't behind a vogue for caesareans at:
The prestigious Hastings Center Report, a journal "promoting thoughtful, balanced reflection on the ethical and social issues of medicine and medical science" published an article by Dr. Howard Minkoff and Lynn Paltrow, NAPW Executive Director. The article, "The Rights of 'Unborn Children' and the Value of Pregnant Women" discusses fetal rights legislation and how mothers are "beatified in words and vilified in deeds."
Lynn M. Paltrow is the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women .
An arrest in Utah in 2004 of a 28-year-old woman who allegedly committed murder by refusing to undergo a C-section represents a shocking abuse of state authority and a dangerous disregard for medical ethics.
By: Lynn M. Paltrow, AlterNet.org, April 22, 2004
Imagine a law declaring that upon becoming pregnant a woman loses her right to bodily integrity, life and liberty. Such a law would undoubtedly result in strong opposition across party lines. But in fact such laws are being passed -- though rather than presented as an attack on women's fundamental rights, they are advanced as fetal rights measures such as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act recently signed into law by President Bush. Increasingly, fetal rights are being used to undermine the legal status of pregnant women.