244468 Do reproductive rights fail women in childbirth?: The limits of reproductive rights in birth cases

Monday, October 31, 2011: 8:54 AM

Rebecca Spence, JD, MPH , Legal Advocates for Birth Options and Rights, Washington, DC
Courts have used Roe v. Wade as precedent to support forcing cesarean surgery on unwilling pregnant women. While instances of court-ordered childbirth intervention are extremely rare, a variety of sources suggest that the violation of women's rights during childbirth is a more common problem than reported legal cases indicate. Data suggests that such intervention may be targeted towards, and more often pursued against women from low-income and/or minority communities. This analysis gives examples of how various courts have applied (or misapplied) reproductive rights legal precedent to the detriment of birthing women's constitutional right to bodily integrity. The session will explain how courts have misapplied abortion-rights cases to extend the state's interest in fetal life to override the health care choices of birthing women. These cases demonstrate how women are diminished as individuals with equal civil and human rights when courts supersede women's autonomy in maternity care decision making. Acknowledging the problem arising from these cases, the speaker will discuss the limits of the reproductive rights framework and analyze the usefulness of the reproductive justice framework for creating healthy communities for pregnant and birthing women.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Other professions or practice related to public health
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe cases where courts use abortion-rights precedent to force treatment on pregnant women. 2. Compare alternative frameworks for protecting birthing women’s rights. 3. Discuss the advantages of the reproductive justice framework.

Keywords: Maternal Health, Abortion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I hold a JD and MPH in health law, policy, and ethics. I have written and published about pregnant women’s rights and been a presenter at previous APHA annual meetings. I am on the Steering Committee of The Big Push for Midwives Campaign.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.