Thursday, April 19, 2007

If pregnant women have rights to bodily integrity, will everyone want some?

Right to Lifers killed Angela Carder: the sad story of pregnant Maryland resident Angela Stoner Carder, who died from a forcible delivery of her premature fetus, is detailed well here and on Wikipedia here.

"No party should be the mere instrument of another. In shared decision-making, the act of informed consent or informed refusal affirms and protects patient autonomy while acknowledging the physician's commitment to professional standards. We strongly believe that difficult medical decisions should be made within the doctor-patient relationship and not by the courts."
Do you agree? Do you think you have a right to bodily integrity? To marital privacy? To a prescription for birth control if a pregnancy could kill you? The ACLU's timeline of reproductive rights here describes state efforts to deny these self-evident rights.

The Supreme Court decided yesterday to officially pile on the attacks on decisions by pregnant women that increasingly include coerced cesarean sections and blood transfusions.

The law in question criminalizes "partial birth abortion." Despite the fact that "partial birth abortion," however distastefully described and rarely used, is not a true medical procedure, and is not defined in the law as to what true medical procedure might be the crime, the court said it was not vague. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists not only said the procedure could be medically necessary, but pointed out how the specially invited anti-choice witnesses who testified on the Nebraska statue lied in their testimony.

The most curious rationalization in this opinion is that the safety of patients need not be addressed at all in the ban. Nevertheless, Justice Kennedy does inject his concern by saying the State is just demonstrating concern for their mental health by protecting them from the "severe depression and loss of self-esteem" because of the choice. According to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
"When a statute burdens constitutional rights and all that can be said on its behalf is that it is the vehicle that legislators have chosen for expressing their hostility to those rights, the burden is undue.”
From the Department of Theology, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC:

...[B]ecause a [medical intervention for a fetus, in this case, a] cesarean section, unless there is a threat to her life [by the pregnancy], is not of any clear benefit to the woman, it is wrong to insist that a dying woman must always endure burdensome treatment for the sake of a viable fetus. Should the mother decide to take on such burdens, it is important also to recognize that a cesarean section is not always in the interest of the fetus simply because it is viable. Given the ambiguity of the prognosis for survival and the risks of significant handicaps for the preterm or low birth weight fetus, it may be ethically appropriate to omit an act on behalf of the fetus. Finally, the fact that the fetus' only chance of survival is a preterm delivery does not make the delivery ethically mandatory. The issue is not whether a [medical intervention] is the fetus' only hope, but whether [it] is in the interest of the fetus.

Good NYT story here.

1 comment:

Beltway Progressive said...

The Times archieves its stories, but here is an analysis by the same writer at the links below: