ACLU Asks Florida Court To Protect The Rights Of Pregnant Women To Refuse Medical Care

August 3, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org or media@aclufl.org.

 

Tallahassee, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida today filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the state's decision to force a pregnant woman to remain hospitalized against her will.

"Women do not give up their right to determine the course of their own medical care when they become pregnant," said Diana Kasdan, a 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."

In March 2009, the Circuit Court of Leon County ordered Samantha Burton – a mother of two suffering from pregnancy complications – to be indefinitely confined to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and forced to undergo any and all medical treatments deemed necessary to save her fetus. After three days of state-compelled hospitalization, Ms. Burton suffered fetal demise and was released from the hospital. 

"We should all be alarmed by Florida's wholly unwarranted intervention in Samantha Burton's care," said Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida. "Not only is it unconstitutional for the state to override a pregnant woman's decision to refuse medical treatment, but the medical community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women's Association, and the American Medical Association, strongly advises against it."

According to the ACLU's brief, "[I]f the decision below stands, it invites State requests for court intervention in nearly all aspects of pregnant women's behavior and medical judgments. In turn, some women will be discouraged from coming to a hospital for pregnancy care if they know that any disagreement may lead to forced medical treatment. Such a result does not advance maternal and fetal health by any measure and is not constitutionally permissible."

The today's brief was filed in the District Court of Appeal, First District, State of Florida, on behalf of the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, and the American Medical Women's Association.

Today's case is Burton v. Florida, No. ID09-1958. Lawyers on the ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief include Kasdan of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; and Marshall of the ACLU of Florida.

The ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief can be found at: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/pregnancy/40568lgl20090731.html

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