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Caesarean refusal leads to murder charge

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
post #2 of 30
Thanks, Kellye, I just caught the end of that story on the morning news, was wanting to hear all of it before I got really mad this morning !
Didn't want to have a C-section because the scar would "ruin her life"? Hrumph, she's either mental or just doesn't deserve to have kids one ! I mean, I thought that anytime you got pregnant, having a C-section was something that was always a possibility? Besides, the scar isn't THAT bad !
post #3 of 30
The woman seemed under the impression that the scar would run from her breast bone to her pubic bone, I believe she put it as, "They want to cut me from my breastbone to my pubic bone." She seems like maybe she has some sort of diminished capacity, although the article didn't seem to mention it. She does look quite confused in her mug shot, but given the nature of her charges I think that's understandable, I think I was even sporting that same look reading that article. Although IMO her judgement was terrible, I think the charges are perverse!
post #4 of 30
Thread Starter 
I saw the part about where she thought the scar was going to be, so I would assume she may be of diminished capacity and perhaps someone told her some stories about c-sections and she got scared.
post #5 of 30
Thread Starter 
Didn't they used to do c-sections up instead of below the bikini line before? I had a c-section and let me tell you, something went wrong with the epidural and I could feel everything on one side and no matter how much drugs they gave me, I could still feel it all. It was the most awful feeling I ever had. (it hurt worse than the labour itself) My guess is that she heard a few horror stories and let them get to her.
post #6 of 30
Yikes Kellye! That had to be truly horrible. That brings back horrifying memories of a Discovery show I watched regarding people who had surgeries where the anesthesia didn't take but they couldn't move or talk to let the medical staff know what was going on. I was pretty much ready to never have surgery after seeing that even if it would save MY life, they all said the pain was incomparable.


post #7 of 30
On January 2, a doctor at LDS Hospital examined Rowland and recommended an immediate C-section based on an ultrasound and the babies' slowing heart rates.
This article really makes me MAD!!!!

I am the mother of one and I had an emergency C-section to save my baby's life!!!! My son was being strangled to death by the umbilical cord, and even with the C-section, the doctor's were very concerned that the baby might be stillborn. The scar from the C-section was the ABSOLUTE LAST thing I was concerned about, and I was willing to do anything so my baby would have a chance to live!!!! I have had that scar on my stomach for years now, and I can tell you that it isn't a big deal at all!!!!!
That woman is a total idiot to have been so concerned about such a silly thing!!!

Kellye, they used to make up and down incisions, and that's what I have just because the doctors didn't have a lot of time, and were concentrating on delivering the baby before he died. Even the scar from that type of incesion is no big deal.
post #8 of 30
I agree, this woman sounds like she has diminshed capacity, but to be honest even so, most women I cared for, would have said do something..give me medicine to start my labor, they wouldn't just accept they might lose a baby.

In my 13 years of doing labor and delivery for both normal and high risk moms, that included a lot of moms with no prenatal care, in some cases due to living on the streets, a drug or drinking habit. I know how hard I would have tried to make this woman understand what her choices meant, what the surgery would be like.

Part of my job was working as scrub nurse (or circulating nurse) for both scheduled and emergency c-sections. Yes, they still do a vertical incision in times of emergency! I've scrubbed in where the most set up we are besides anesthesia and a peds team on the way, is the scrub nurse getting the scalpel loaded and the doctor's scrubbed and gowned. Sometimes you just have to move and move fast.

Kellye....I am so grateful I never saw that with all the c-sections I was a part of..I'm so sorry!
post #9 of 30
I think there is a lot more to this story than we know, it'll be interesting to see what surfaces regarding it in the coming days. It seems like the medical staff should have been able to explain things to her a little better so she wasn't so scared. I don't think she was in any sort of condition to be making these decisions on her own, and if it is in fact a crime, how can the medical staff be excused for not detaining her to keep this crime from occurring?

Lorie - for reasonable people like yourself (and me, too, if ever placed in that position) this decision was a no-brainer, but I don't think she had the capacity to make this choice rationally. Her lack of comprehension coupled with her unreasonable perception that her life would be ruined from the scar certainly make me feel fortunate to not be in her head! She probably could have been detained at the hospital for psychiatric purposes...
post #10 of 30
I guess I HOPE that she has diminished mental capacity, if not, there is really no excuse to me for her decision. I have never had a C-section, but my hysterectomy was done using the same cut, and I guess I just don't see the big deal about the scarring, even though my doc told me that if my uterus was much bigger than he thought, I would wind up cut up and down too......
Kellye, that thought just chills me to the bone, girl!
post #11 of 30
What bothered me about this was that if the MD had made an error of any sort resulting in the death of the baby during delivery, he would have had civil problems (loss of license possibly, malpractice for certain) but not be charged with murder. I also wonder if there is any evidence about what she said re: the cosmetic other than the one person's comment. The woman could have been terrified of surgery: a lot of people are. Here in NYC, there are people adamant abt not delivering babies in hospitals but rather in birthing centers w/o MDs on staff although theoretically they have back-up arrangements to rush someone to a hospital if there is a problem. I'm not dissing that concept but if I was having a baby, I would want the backup professionals there, not a 15 minute ride away in NYC traffic. An administrator at a hospital where I worked wanted to have her baby in a tub of water; the OBG chief told her she could sit in a tub while in labor if she chose (she brought her own inflatable tub) but there was no way that he was delivering a baby while she and her husband were sitting in a tub of water together since it didn't strike him as sanitary, at a minimum. As someone else said, it seems like there must be more to this story than is being reported.
post #12 of 30
That lady doesn't deserve to have a murder charge. That lady needs to have a padded room!

Now, seriously, isn't this ludicrous?
post #13 of 30
While the refusal for Caesarean because of cosmetic reasons seems terrible one must be real careful about such a situation and the prosecution of the mother.

If the mother is prosecuted, then such a decision which elevates the rights of the foetus over that of the mother will impact the rights of abortion. It may also reduce the rights of a pregnant mother in terms of her diet, drinking or smoking.

As Kim Gandy president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) states: "I see this as part of an overall focus of a certain movement on fetal rights and an effort to elevate fetal rights above the rights of a woman."

The law for the most part have felt that it is against public policy to prosecute a mother for her actions that might affect her child. Imagine someone coming up to a pregnant woman and telling her how to live and she herself does not have the right and capacity to live her life.

At one time the courts were actively deciding what is right for the pregnant mother to do. It was until the courts ordered a caesarean to be performed on this woman despite her objections. The baby was born stillborn and 48 hours later the woman died. Imagine being forced to go through an operation only to see your baby dead in your arms.

Such action will have a disproportionate effect poor women and women that are already under the scrutiny of the state. Even if that is not so these action will have a disproportionate effect on woemn to men thus subjecting them to surveillance and control. It may thus prevent women from taking part in activities which are not imposed on men.

Any intervention that focus on the health of the fetus seems to devalue the woman and her needs and suggest that her only purpose is to serve as a tool of reproduction.

Furthermore let us assume that the mother is prosecuted. What then would be the result. She would be sent to jail and the child would be without a mother. To meet the needs of women response should be done through education and counselling. Punitive and coercive actions are counterproductive and violates women's rights and is a patriarchal approach designed to reinforce gender and class roles.
post #14 of 30
According to today's paper, the woman now says that it wasn't cosmetic - she's had two previous C-sections. Her other two children are in the custody of her ex's mother and the new baby has been adopted out.

It appears that she does have some mental problems - a history of suicide attempts and confinement to a mental institution.

She says that she wasn't concerned about being split "breastbone to pubis" and was familiar with the procedure. She also states that the doctors did not tell her that the baby in danger.

This case is getting weirder and weirder.
post #15 of 30
I have to agree very strongly with thy451 here. Despite how bad is what this woman did, it would be even worse to indicte her with murder, as it would start making a serious dent in abortion rights. Think about the Laci Peterson case, they are accusing him of double murder. Have you got any idea the damage this could do to abortion rights, whose detractors always say it's murder?

I shudder at the thought of such a thing. Abortion is a basic right of any pregnant woman. And it is the last chance of those who have unplanned abortions. Specially in the case of teenagers who commit mistakes. It's banning would easily be a violation of freedom of religion as its detractors are based on particular religious rights, infringing those whose religious beliefs don't say it is murder.

Regardless, it seems to me, that she is mentally deranged. If she is so familiar with C-Sections (What woman would be more than the one who's had it twice?) then she seems to be mentally incapacitated. It would be her word against that of the doctors on what happened. And if she has mental problems it won't stand a chance.
post #16 of 30
This woman has obvious problems if she thinks that a scar on her body is more important than her babies lives...I feel bad for the one who survived too. How will she ever explain to that child that she risked their life and killed their sibling because she didn't want any scarring. This woman clearly isn't fit to take care of a child.
post #17 of 30
Sofie, she placed the survivor for adoption. Hopefully, she isn't one of those, who will change her mind and try to get the baby back.
post #18 of 30
The Salt Lake News stations and papers are saying that she did not place the child for adoption. It was taken from her and her rights were terminated.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I don't think she should be charged with 1st degree murder if she is truly mentally ill, but my concern is not out of concern for abortion rights. And she sure sounds like she is mentally ill. I'm thinking, if it is proven that she dodged the doctors and made those statements, that maybe they should charge her with negligent homocide or something lesser then 1st degree murder. And if found guilty, she needs to be forced into treatment.

The thing is, several different hospitals are giving the police reports about these actions. So it's not like one doctor and nurse made this up. It's several different hospitals, many different doctors and nurses, not even affiliated with each other.
post #19 of 30
This is very sad, but raises some very troubling issues.

If the courts are going to start mandating medical intervention for women over their own personal objections, what's next after that? Where is the line drawn? And who pays the medical expenses?

I also agree with Lucia's point about medical malpractice.
post #20 of 30
There has been some more information on this case come out here in Utah the last few days.

This woman had also tried to sell a child to make bail money. The surviving infant had drugs in her system when born (crack/cocaine). And several different hospitals claim to have evidence of her indifference to life and refusal of treatment. These are the kind of patients that make OB/GYN's malpractice insurance so high and the reason so many physicians are turning away from OB practice. There is an alarming shortage of OB's in this country! Many of them won't even take on patients because of liability, who haven't seen a doctor in the first trimester. I still am not sure if she should be charged with murder. But she should be held accountable in some way. Maybe we should have a parenting malpractice!
post #21 of 30
Originally posted by yoviher
I have to agree very strongly with thy451 here. Despite how bad is what this woman did, it would be even worse to indicte her with murder, as it would start making a serious dent in abortion rights. Think about the Laci Peterson case, they are accusing him of double murder. Have you got any idea the damage this could do to abortion rights, whose detractors always say it's murder?

I shudder at the thought of such a thing. Abortion is a basic right of any pregnant woman. And it is the last chance of those who have unplanned abortions. Specially in the case of teenagers who commit mistakes. It's banning would easily be a violation of freedom of religion as its detractors are based on particular religious rights, infringing those whose religious beliefs don't say it is murder.

I think in the Petersen case you are off base. It is not the first time that someone has been charged with a crime in connection with the death of a nearly full-term fetus because of an illegal act of violence AGAINST THE MOTHER. It has nothing to do with abortion rights. Prosecuters add this type of charge very infrequently. It is generally illegal to abort a third trimester fetus anyway. If you were married and your wife was 8 months pregnant and someone tried to rob her, and hit her in such a way that she miscarried and the baby died, would you really be content to have the guy arrested for robbery alone?
post #22 of 30
Originally posted by mzjazz2u
The Salt Lake News stations and papers are saying that she did not place the child for adoption. It was taken from her and her rights were terminated.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I don't think she should be charged with 1st degree murder if she is truly mentally ill, but my concern is not out of concern for abortion rights. And she sure sounds like she is mentally ill. I'm thinking, if it is proven that she dodged the doctors and made those statements, that maybe they should charge her with negligent homocide or something lesser then 1st degree murder. And if found guilty, she needs to be forced into treatment.

The thing is, several different hospitals are giving the police reports about these actions. So it's not like one doctor and nurse made this up. It's several different hospitals, many different doctors and nurses, not even affiliated with each other.
And she needs to be spayed before she's released from her treatment or sentance !
post #23 of 30

In the Roe vs. Wade case in the U.S. Supreme Court (If I remember well it was 1972) it was determined that abortion before the first three months of pregnancy is completely legal and cannot be restricted/banned. After the first three months it's up to Congress and state governments to regulate it, but they don't nescesarily have to.

Now that I think those facts, I guess you are right. Anyway, my apologies if I put something wrong.
post #24 of 30
I don't understand how this has anything to do with abortion rights. This is TOTALLY a different situation. If someone told me that one of my babies would die unless I have a c-section, I would have the c-section without a second thought. If a women chooses to become pregnant, they have a responsibility to not only themself but to this innocent human being living inside them. This means not taking drugs, not drinking, and seeing a dr on a regular basis. This woman clearly had no right being pregnant, from the looks of her she could barely keep herself healthy let alone a fetus. Why did she have to keep going to all these different hospitals to confirm that her babies were alive? She had the frame of mind to notice that the babies weren't moving so maybe she wasn't completely crazy. When the first hospital told her that one of the babies had no heartbeat, she should've admitted herself right then and there. But she didn't, she kept going from hospital to hosipital until someone would give her an answer she was satisfied with. I agree that the woman is mentally unstable to some capacity; probably has a serious drug problem and needs psychaitric help, but she knew one of the babies may die and let it happen. Isn't that the same thing as killing someone? Or does an unborn baby not count as a someone?

As far as abortion is concerned, I agree that a woman should be able to make their own decision on whether or not to keep the baby. It is not up to the goverment to tell a woman what to do with her body. But having said that, I do think that something should be done with women who are constantly getting pregnant and constantly having abortions because they don't use any kind of contraceptives. These days there is no excuse for not using protection; please keep in mind that I'm talking about women who are VOLUNTARILY having sex, I am not saying this should apply to women who are raped. Everywhere you go there is talk about educating women and men for that matter on using protection. With women who VOLUNTARILY get pregnant and then have it aborted over and over, this is where I think the law needs to add some kind of restriction. There should be some kind of tracking system on women who have had several abortions; more than 1 is several if you ask me. IMO these women who have 2,3,4 abortions have no regard for human life and should have their tubes tied.

The point is that women have been given the gift of giving life and this gift should be cherished and appreciated not taken for granted. Any woman that takes this gift for granted does not deserve to have it.
post #25 of 30
1) Woman v Fetus Rights:
Abortion right does not exist in a vacuum. It operates under the notion of competing right between that of the woman and that of the fetus. What if the doctor were to tell a pregnant women that she should not drive because it is too dangerous. Or that pregnant women should not go to work because there is a chance of injury to the child.

2) Change Law:
But before I continue let me explain how one goes about "changing" the law through the courts. Courts operate through precedent meaning a previous decision would be binding on a lower courts and highly persuasive right at the highest court. So if you want to change the law you do not go barging in with any case. You go in with a case where the facts are in your favour and that you claim all you want to do is to focus on this case. Much like how a wedge operates. You make a little "toe hole" and you start expanding from that principle until pretty soon you get a bunch of decisions that strike at the heart of the issue which you desire.

3) Third Party Interference:
As for the comment on being robbed and punch that is a separate issue as it is not what the pregnant woman wants or desires to do but rather due to actions of a third party.

4) Medical Consent
You need consent when you do a medical procedure. Sure in this case it would seem that her reasons for not wanting to consent seems "out there" but how are you going to judge in later cases whether or not one's decision is the 'correct' one or not. An example in point is those religious people who refuse medical treatment for their kids even if such treatment is necessary for the survival of the child.

5) Tracking system:
That is a very dangerous suggestion and in fact there is a battle going on right now where the government is trying to obtain medical records of abortion patients. There are multiple ruling across the nations with some allowing and other denying so it would most probably go up to the supreme court. But in the jurisdiction where records are allowed, the basis is that all personal identification are removed. And in the places that deny the abortion request, release of medical information even if it is scrubbed of all personal information is considered a invasion of patient privacy
Justice Department seeks abortion records:
Judge Denies Record
Judge Orders turnover of record

6) Right to be Pregnant/Eugenics
Let us not forget the time when governments steralise women that are mentally challenged or even native and aboroginal people. Heard of a thing call Eugenics? It was made infamouse by the Nazis where they wanted to breed out all the imperfections in the human race. In a sense there is nothing wrong with it and in fact it is done to a certain extent now with pre-natal screening where doctors can tell whether the child would grow up with certain conditions or disease. The parents are then told and the parents may choose to terminate the pregnancy. The problem then is if woman who have multiple pregnancy-abortions are not allowed to have babies then a similar argument about preventing people with certain genetic conditions to have any child of their own. Afterall it is all for the good of the society.

The follow up point is what if these woman who have their tubes tied want to actually have a child a few years down. So should the government then pay for the operation that reverses the initial operation? What if it is not successful can we allow them to sue the government for depriving them of the right to have children? What about waiting time? What if the government does pay for the operation but there is a waiting time of a year. And what if the mother is close to an advance pregnancy age (35) and there is a birth defect in the child due to her advance pregnancy age but its probability of occuring is less if the operation occured immediately. Would they be allowed to claimed for damages or at least the cost of raising the special needs child from the government?

7) Protection
Just because protection is allowed does not mean that abortion rights or the rights of women should be taken away. An analogy, if lets say a person batters another and without treatment the victim will die. And treatment lets say is simple and 100% effective. If the victim chooses not to receive treatment and dies, it is no defence for the attacker to claim in his trial for murder that the other person would have been alive if he had received treatment. Availability of protection and rights of abortion are separate and distinct.
post #26 of 30
Comparing women today who abuse pregnancy and abortion to what the Nazis used to do to innocent women who had no plans for abortion but were FORCED into it by the Nazis, is not a fair comparison. Obviously parents who find that the unborn child may have some kind of life threatening disease or some kind of genetic disorder MIGHT choose to terminate the preganancy. But this is not the same thing as women who get pregnant and know full well they don't want the baby and have it aborted. I don't feel that trying to keep abortions under some kind of control will lead to some kind of government takeover and women will lose all rights to their pregnancies or lose all rights period. Why would you think that it's OK for some women to terminate pregnancies like it's no big deal? I don't mean women who have the unfortunate decision of terminating the preganancy because of a disease or something like that. I'm talking about women who blatantly take advantage of abortion rights. Abortion rights in this country was not made legal for women who do not practice good judgment on a constant basis. This is where I think someone needs to step in and talk to these women to find out what the real issues are. Whether it be lack of education or what have you. This is why I mentioned the tracking system.

While I do agree that the government is FAAAARRR from perfect, I do think that as far as this issue is concerned, they need to develop some controls.
post #27 of 30
Originally posted by thy451

Furthermore let us assume that the mother is prosecuted. What then would be the result. She would be sent to jail and the child would be without a mother. To meet the needs of women response should be done through education and counselling. Punitive and coercive actions are counterproductive and violates women's rights and is a patriarchal approach designed to reinforce gender and class roles.
The child is already adopted out. The woman tried to sell the child for bail money so her parental rights were terminated and the baby was adopted.
post #28 of 30
Let me post a nice article on CNN about this issue. Of course I do not agree with everything she says but I agree with the general thrust of her arguments. The author touches on many issues raised.


Crying murder when C-section refused
Disturbing implications of a Utah prosecution

(FindLaw) -- Last week, Utah prosecutors charged a woman with murder for failing to undergo a Caesarean section ("C-section") delivery, a failure that allegedly resulted in the death of one of her unborn twins. Prosecutors have suggested that the reason the woman, Melissa Ann Rowland, refused the procedure was her desire to avoid an abdominal scar.

Ultimately, this prosecution raises a very simple question: Are we, as a society, prepared to demand more of pregnant women than of anyone else?

The answer to this question must be no, if we are sincerely committed to equality.

Fetus status
To avoid creating the impression that I take the responsibilities of pregnancy lightly, let me be clear in stating that I believe a woman who intends to carry her pregnancy to term has a moral obligation to attempt to avoid situations and activities that will harm her unborn child. Pregnant women who engage in drinking sprees or other high-risk behavior, without considering the impact on their children, are doing something that I consider selfish, reprehensible, and cruel.

The fact that the pregnant woman's child will suffer in the future rather than in the present because of her actions, moreover, does not -- to my mind -- mitigate the harm of those actions.

Further, if an uninvited third party were to inflict upon a pregnant woman the very same exposure to hazards to which she is exposing herself, I would have no hesitation about subjecting the third party to criminal responsibility for the harm caused to the unborn child. Indeed, I have said as much in an earlier column.

To make a principled case for opposing Rowland's prosecution for murder, someone who values fetal life must distinguish what the defendant allegedly did -- failing to obtain a C-section against doctors' orders -- from the actions that a third party might carry out to cause death or serious bodily harm to an unborn baby. And one cannot rely on the fact that the twin whose death Rowland allegedly caused was not yet born.

Pregnant women versus others
Advocates for abortion rights sometimes fall into what I have described in an earlier column as the pro-life trap of arguing about whether a fetus is a person. The only coherent defense of abortion, however, once a pregnancy has progressed beyond the early stages, is that in a free country such as ours, we do not demand that people give their bodies over to others -- even their own children -- in the way that forced pregnancy would entail.

We do not make parents of physically separate children, for example, donate a kidney or bone marrow or even blood to save their children (though many of us hope that parents would love their children enough to make these extreme sacrifices without the force of a legal obligation).

Though for many a welcome and beautiful event, it is nonetheless true that the experience of pregnancy physically taxes a woman's organ systems and health in ways that simply do not admit of analogy in the existing law of ordinarily required sacrifice.

Yes, individuals can be made to pay money to support their children, even when those children are unwanted. But as a matter of common sense, the mandating of financial payments, however burdensome, does not rise to the level of imposition upon bodily integrity implicated by pregnancy.

And once an imposition rises to that level, we no longer see the law making such demands, even of parents.

'So what?,' the reader might be thinking. That's all about abortion. Rowland chose not to have an abortion.

In fact, far from demanding that she remain pregnant, her doctors asked her to stop being pregnant to save the lives of her children, and she was unwilling to do that. Does Rowland really have a right to remain pregnant and thereby to kill her children?

The question is a good one, but the distinction between punishing a woman for abortion, and punishing her for refusing surgery to terminate a pregnancy, is illusory. Just as a pregnancy represents a major physical intrusion, so then does surgery. Indeed, one can readily understand the seriousness of major surgery without even knowing much about how difficult pregnancy can be.

Imagine a law that said that some sector of the population -- defined by race, gender, or national origin -- must undergo a particular surgical procedure, involving all of the risks and painful after-effects of surgery and anesthesia. Such a law would be objectionable and obviously unconstitutional no matter how helpful to others, including children of the targeted group.

An example? It is difficult to invent one, but let us use our imaginations. Say a hypothetical (but devastating) disease -- fabricitis -- is quite common. Say also that the disease can be cured completely with the injection of liver cells from men of Finnish descent. The liver cells must be extracted from the men before they reach the age of 45, though, and the only way to accomplish the extraction is through abdominal surgery.

The criminal law could not demand of Finnish-American young men that they undergo the surgery to save victims of the disease, even those victims who are close relatives of the patients.

Altruistic individuals could choose to make the sacrifice, of their own free will (and some would surely do so). But to incarcerate those who did not as murderers would here represent unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of national origin and would place a grossly unfair demand on the relevant minority.

Targeting a limited population
Why do I focus on a minority rather than saying that the law could not force everyone to undergo abdominal surgery?

The reason is that a nation of enforced altruism would not necessarily be inferior to or less desirable than our own.

It would, of course, be highly burdensome and intrusive if everyone were legally obligated to donate bone marrow and blood routinely, and if people had to undergo surgery to help others. In addition, such a scheme would probably violate existing constitutional liberty and privacy rights.

Nonetheless, if the demand were evenhanded, then we would have some assurance that a majority of the public sincerely felt that the benefits -- in the saving of lives and the prevention of extreme suffering -- outweighed the costs in liberty and autonomy.

In other words, there is no reason why the costs of demanding universal altruism would be systematically undervalued or the benefits systematically overvalued if every member of society were subject to both.

Minimizing costs to others
Consider how different it would be, on the other hand, if a particular portion of the population were legally bound to carry burdens that the rest of us can avoid. The targeted group could be Finnish-American young men or pregnant women (or perhaps pregnant women like Ms. Rowland, who apparently had little money and lacked strong ties to her treating doctors).

In such a situation, it is quite plausible to expect that advocates for imposing this burden would minimize the cost and trivialize the objections while focusing almost exclusively on the real or imagined benefits of the compulsory sacrifice.

We see this in pro-life rhetoric that portrays women as casually having abortions to address "inconvenience." And we see it as well in the prosecutor's attempts to suggest that Ms. Rowland allowed her child to die in utero in order to avoid an unsightly scar -- a claim that conflicts with her own statement that she had already had C-sections (and scars) in the past and thus was not simply trying to preserve a scar-free aesthetic.

Most of us -- that is, men, women who are not pregnant, and many women who are pregnant but who do not have adversarial relationships with their doctors -- will never be in Rowland's position and are well aware of that. It would therefore be quite easy for a majority to tolerate criminal prosecutions, when the prosecutions will cost the majority nothing.

Exaggerating benefits
In addition to minimizing costs when they are borne by somebody else, there is also a human tendency to overvalue the benefits to be derived from reducing others' liberties.

This tendency has, for example, been a source of great concern for those who have suffered the effects of racial profiling both before and after the attacks of September 11th.

On top of unfairly distributing liberty, many have claimed, racial profiling also gives us an illusion but not the reality of greater safety. The same could be said of forced C-sections.

C-Section truths
Up until now, this column has proceeded on the assumption that a doctor who tells a pregnant patient that she needs to have a C-section is generally providing sound advice that ought to be followed if the woman cares about her unborn children. Even if that assumption is true, I have argued, it is nonetheless unacceptable to require pregnant women to undergo major surgery for their children's sake (and on pain of criminal prosecution) when no one else is forced do so.

As it turns out, though, the premise that an obstetrician's surgical recommendation ought to be followed is itself questionable. In the U.S., approximately one quarter of all babies are delivered by C-section. According to the World Health Organization's Safety Standards, however, there is no justification for a C-section rate of higher than 10 to 15 percent.

That is, roughly one half of the C-sections in the U.S. are performed unnecessarily. Furthermore, as it turns out, the risk of maternal death is between twice and four times greater when a woman has a C-section than when she undergoes a vaginal delivery.

But doesn't the U.S. offer the best obstetrical care in the world? No. If we look at comparative C-section rates across industrialized nations, the U.S. rates -- as of 1995 -- were higher than those of at least ten other countries, including England, France, and Spain, where infant mortality rates were also lower.

C-sections are thus risky not only to pregnant women but to their babies as well -- a fact that certainly has some bearing on whether doctors who recommend surgery are necessarily practicing good medicine.

But what do these surgical rates have to do with the Rowland prosecution? Didn't one of her twins die, just as doctors feared? And doesn't that death show that at least in her situation, it was -- from her babies' perspective -- an obvious mistake for her to refuse a C-section?

In light of C-section rates in the U.S., the death of Ms. Rowland's baby does not necessarily support the conclusion that refusing the surgery was wrong. The alarmingly high rate of C-sections in this country evidences a tendency for doctors here to intervene surgically in many instances in which such intervention is inappropriate and thereby to create unjustified risks to mothers and their babies.

When it comes to recommended C-sections, it is thus difficult to know in advance that a particular doctor's recommendation represents good (never mind the only sound) advice.

Specific court cases bear out this concern about C-section recommendations as well. In three of the first five cases in which providers sought court ordered C-sections in the U.S., for example, the women delivered vaginally without a problem. In two of the three cases, moreover, the doctors predicted that both the woman and her offspring would die, though the women went on to deliver healthy babies without surgery.

Even in the Rowland case itself, doctors said that her twins would likely die without a C-section, but in fact, one of the two survived. This is not to say, of course, that a 50% infant mortality rate is an acceptable result. However, the surviving twin does -- even in hindsight -- point to a serious problem in allowing courts to place unquestioning reliance upon medical judgment when it comes to C-sections.

And unlike court orders, criminal prosecutions can benefit from 20-20 hindsight. They thus allow prosecutors to ignore the many cases in which doctors said the very same things that they said to Ms. Rowland, and outcomes proved the doctors to be very much mistaken.

In favor of Rowland

In short, the arguments against the homicide prosecution of Melissa Ann Rowland for failure to have a C-section are substantial and ultimately decisive.

To undergo surgery to help another person -- even one's own child -- is a decision currently left up to the individual in our society. Moral obligations to risk life and limb for one's children are not enforced by the criminal law.

To select a subgroup -- pregnant women -- to face mandatory surgery is thus patently unfair. And in addition to embracing a double-standard, the advocate of forced C-sections must confront the wealth of data suggesting that the those who decide a C-section is necessary for a child's wellbeing are consistently making errors that risk the lives and wellbeing of women and their babies.

If we wish to become a nation of good Samaritans, a step that this country does not appear poised to take at this time, we must make sure that the obligations of such a choice rest equally upon all of us. Otherwise, we risk subjugating a minority, and we systematically fail to assess the real-life costs and benefits of what we do.

In the interests of justice, the prosecution of Ms. Rowland should be dropped or dismissed.
post #29 of 30
Another article. This time from the BBC. A more balanced article that touches on both sides of the issue.


Battle over rights for foetuses

By Clare Murphy
BBC News Online

Whether a pregnant woman has the right to refuse surgery to save the child she is carrying has become the subject of America's latest culture war.

Banners and badges have been banned from the courtroom where Melissa Ann Rowland, whose case is being championed by women's activists and civil liberties campaigners, is to stand trial.

The judge believes the passions sparked by the case of the 28-year-old, charged with murder after allegedly refusing a Caesarean that doctors say was needed to save her twins, would jeopardise her right to a fair trial if allowed to spill over into the courtroom.

To the prosecution - and many Americans - Ms Rowland displayed a "depraved indifference to human life" when she apparently ignored doctors' advice to undergo the operation immediately, allegedly for purely cosmetic reasons. One of her twins was subsequently stillborn.

Ms Rowland has for her part categorically denied the suggestion that she refused surgery because she did not want a disfiguring scar, and argued that she was never informed of the need for an immediate operation.

But to those who have rallied behind Ms Rowland, her ignorance of the situation or alleged lack of concern for the wellbeing of the twins is not the central issue.

They see the case as shining the spotlight on a broader drive to control women's behaviour during pregnancy and undermine abortion rights by conferring the notion of personhood on the unborn.

Rights for foetuses, they argue, are being placed squarely above those of their mothers. Precisely what is necessary, Ms Rowland's detractors retort, if unborn babies are to be saved from callous mothers.

Protecting pregnancies

The concept of foetal rights has made headway in the US in recent years. They are inevitably embraced by those who oppose abortion in the US, but also, increasingly, by those who do not necessarily think terminations are wrong.

This week, the US Senate is due to consider a bill which, if approved, would impose criminal penalties on anyone who harms a foetus during an assault on a pregnant woman.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act has already passed by 254 to 163 in the House of Representatives, which rejected a Democratic-led alternative that would have increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women in which the foetus is injured or killed without conferring new rights on foetuses.

President George W Bush has endorsed the legislation, which has rode high on a wave of popular disgust at the brutal murder of a young, pregnant woman, allegedly by a cheating husband, last year.

Laci Peterson was found washed up on a California beach, with the body of her unborn baby nearby, the umbilical cord still attached.

For pro-choice campaigners, the bill is a clear attempt to use a highly emotive murder to endow a foetus with rights, and thus challenge a woman's right to choose.

But a number of legal experts and politicians do not agree, pointing to language within the bill that protects those carrying out legal abortions from prosecution.

"This bill has nothing to do with abortion,"said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner. "The Unborn Victims of Violence Act protects the right of a mother to choose to bring her wanted and loved child to term, safe from the violent hands of criminals who would brutally deny her that right."

Handing our rights

Endowing a foetus with rights does not necessarily undermine a woman's right to choose, some observers note, provided that the woman's rights are always paramount.

Yet pro-life campaigners are clear in their own minds as to what the bill will establish.

It is widely held on both sides of the abortion divide that a direct attack on Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which established a woman's right to abortion, would not be countenanced by the majority.

But pro-life campaigners hope that the gradual endowment of foetuses with rights, as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act will do, will encourage a different perception of foetuses and, potentially, provide a legal basis for a challenge to Roe v Wade in the future.

"The abortion lobby is frantic," says Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations for Concerned Women for America, "because this act helps tear down the myth that the unborn child is not a person, which is the foundation of the abortion industry."

Opponents of abortion have also been encouraged by the recent ban on what is known as "partial-birth" abortion, an emotively labelled procedure carried out late in pregnancy.

The ban, supported by President Bush, constituted the first federal restriction on abortion since Roe v Wade.

Political analysts believe the president, who personally believes abortion is wrong, has acted shrewdly on the issue - supporting legislation that it is dear to his conservative base but without alienating the middle ground.

"Certainly encroachments on abortion have accelerated under President Bush, but I would be reluctant to put all the changes that we've seen in recent years at his door," says Professor Jennifer Rosato of Brooklyn Law School.

"There is momentum at the grassroots level for change, and an increasingly emotional rather than rational response among the American people to foetal-related issues.

"Roe v Wade isn't going to be overturned tomorrow, but it is the gradual erosion of rights, little by little, that is the issue. That's where the fight is, and that's what the pro-choice movement must take on."
post #30 of 30
And finally an article from NOW, which is a bit emotive towards the end I must admit but its arguments are still valid. Furthermore it offers a bit more insight to the case. The person did have a caesarean.


NOW Condemns Utah Murder Prosecution for Delayed Cesarean Delivery

March 12, 2004

"The prosecution of Melissa Ann Rowland is appalling for so many reasons, I hardly know where to begin," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "This woman, who has a lifelong history of mental illness, is being prosecuted for not following a doctor's advice regarding her pregnancy - actually she did follow it, but just not quickly enough to suit the Salt Lake prosecutor. Some doctors may think they are God, but when did 'doctor's orders' become the law?"

Authorities in Salt Lake City have now charged 28-year-old Melissa Ann Rowland with the murder of one of her twins, who was stillborn in January. Rowland was advised by doctors to have a cesarean section, but Rowland refused, having experienced the invasive procedure in two prior deliveries where she had been cut "breast bone to pubic bone."

She did eventually have the "c-section," but is being prosecuted because she didn't have it early enough -- on the theory that the stillborn twin might have survived if she had delivered earlier. One day after the operation, she was jailed on endangerment charges because drugs were reported to be in the system of the surviving twin. "This is absolutely inhumane treatment," said Gandy. "This woman had major surgery on one day and was thrown into jail the very next day. I imagine that it was very apparent to these people that this woman was mentally ill, suffering from addiction and loss, and in considerable pain. What is wrong with these people?"

"Our legal system recognizes every person's right to bodily integrity and the right to make your own medical decisions. You can't force a father to donate a kidney, or bone marrow or even blood to save his child's life -- yet Utah is prosecuting a woman for murder because she delayed having a cesarean section! Where will the pre-natal police be stationed?" asked Gandy, "Will pregnant women risk prosecution for having wine with dinner? Will women be prosecuted for taking their own life-saving medications because those drugs might harm the fetus? Where will it stop?"

"This is an example of 'fetal rights' replacing the bodily integrity and autonomy of women under the law," said Gandy. "When a woman becomes pregnant, she does not give up her rights to personal autonomy."
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