ACLU History: Controlling Pregnant Women
In the 1987 case of In re: A.C., hospital administrators went to court and secured an order forcing Angela Carder, a pregnant woman critically ill with cancer, to undergo a cesarean section against her will. Tragically, both she and her premature baby died. The ACLU, working with the family, got the dangerous legal precedent vacated. The case helped establish the right of pregnant women to determine their own health care.
In the 2001 case of Ferguson v. City of Charleston, the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to void a South Carolina public hospital policy mandating drug testing of pregnant women. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not permit the state, acting without either a warrant or individualized suspicion, to drug test pregnant women who seek prenatal care in a public hospital. Furthermore, the Court insisted on the importance of medical confidentiality.
In our work on behalf of pregnant women challenging punitive state action, the ACLU has had powerful allies, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Association for Perinatal Research and Education, and numerous other public health and women's organizations.