In March of 2009 Samantha Burton of Florida fearing she may be in premature labor, went to the emergency department of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital under the advisement of her obstetrician.
She was in her 25th week of pregnancy and doctors concluded while she was not actually in pre-term labor, that she remains on bed rest for the remaining fifteen weeks of her pregnancy.
Ms. Burton, a single mother of two, wanted to leave the hospital for a second opinion.
She feared who would take care of her children, and how she would continue to work at her job, to support them.
When she voiced her right to refuse treatment to get a second opinion, not only was her request denied, the doctors refused she be released.
Instead of allowing her to exercise her constitutional right-, the hospital requested an emergency hearing over the phone with a county judge to force her to stay confined to the bed rest.
Not only did the judge grant that Ms. Burton remain hospitalized, the judge also ordered that doctors do anything medically necessary to protect the life of Samantha Burtons unborn fetus, regardless of her wishes, or her own health. The bed rest order would remain in effect indefinitely.
How long she would be confined against her will, became irrelevant however, when after a three-day state ordered confinement, and subsequent state ordered cesarean section, the fetus was stillborn.
Florida decided to fight for the rights of the unborn, over the already living adult mother, and refusing her requests for a second opinion.
No legal counsel was provided for Samantha Burton, her voice was silenced by the efforts of the hospital and the judge who issued the orders.
It was only after the c-section of her stillborn baby, that she was released from the hospital.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of themselves and the American Women's Medical Association (AMWA). They joined the case of Samantha Burton against the State of Florida in support of a womanís right to choose what medical treatment and tests to undergo, if any.
Florida District Court of Appeal ruled that the rights of Samantha Burton were in fact violated when she was forced to remain hospitalized against her will after disagreeing with the hospital's recommended treatment.
There is a very real fear that other pregnant women will choose not to seek medical attention, even when they believe they need it, because of cases like this, where womenís rights are treated as the lesser right over a fetus. The exact opposite scenario that the laws were written to prevent.
It will never be known, if a second opinion could have saved the life of Samantha Burtonís unborn baby, but it is a fact, that the hospital, staff, and judge who violated her rights, did not protect the child she was carrying.
This is another horrid example of the interference of people fighting for the rights of a fetus, over an already living human being. These kinds of violations continue to occur everyday, despite the laws in place to protect and prevent it.
It is also another very sad example of how these interferences; continue to do the opposite of what the person or persons intended.
That is one of the many reasons I am, and will always be pro-choice. The choice of the individual it affects, not the choice of those who think they know better.
For more information on the amazing works of the ACLU & the American Women's Medical Association
I have included links below.