Friday, August 28, 2009

Court-ordered Cesareans

In keeping with my last post - have you ever thought about what happens when an expectant mother and her physician disagree about what course of medical interventions are necessary? What if the doctor wants to do a Cesarean, and mom thinks it is unnecessary? I mean, we do KNOW that 1 in 3 women do NOT need to have major abdominal surgery in order to deliver their baby. What if the mother does not want to be sliced open and risk her life and health and that of the baby just to fit the doctor's schedule better?

Wonder no more. Just search Google for the term "court ordered cesarean sections" and you will read one bizarre case after another. While such cases are certainly the exception and not the norm, it is not because courts are not all too happy to order them, but because most Moms in labor cave in long before the issue becomes a legal matter. 90% of requests for court-ordered Cesareans are granted, and the majority of those within a matter of hours.

There have been cases of doctors being deputized by the local sheriff over the phone so the doctor would then legally be able to apprehend the mother before she could leave the hospital against medical advice. Court proceedings are usually held right in the labor room, with court-appointed attorneys representing the unborn child and no such representation for the mother.

Some good books that deal in part with this subject are "Pushed" and "Born in the USA".

This is such a complex issue because no legislation in the world can ever ensure both the mother's autonomy to make decisions concerning her health care, and the baby's well-being. If it the government's job to make sure women take proper care for their unborn children, where would the line be drawn? What about mothers with unhealthy habits such as smoking/drinking? What about those who do not eat enough during pregnancy because they worry about their figure? What about women in the workforce who may not be getting enough rest or proper nutrition?

This leads to the logical inconsistency of rulings such as that of the Utah Supreme Court, that the state's criminal homicide statute applies to unborn children at all stages of development, yet exempts the killing of a fetus during an abortion. And while the decisions in Roe v. Wade clearly state that the unborn are not human persons, and imply no ethical duty on anyone to rescue them, contradictory legislation has been passed. A new federal law signed by President Bush on April 1, 2004, makes it a separate and distinct federal crime to end the life of a fetus—defined as “a member of the species [H]omo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb”— during a violent attack on the mother. Here again, though, prosecution is specifically excluded when a legal abortion is performed. Pregnant women in South Dakota who abuse alcohol or other drugs now face involuntary detention in treatment facilities, and a law in Wisconsin allows juvenile court judges to intervene on behalf of the unborn to detain and restrict the liberty of such mothers. In 2003, Regina McKnight, a homeless drug addict with an IQ of 72, who abused cocaine during pregnancy and whose child was stillborn, lost a bid in the United States Supreme Court to reverse her conviction. She is now serving a 12-year prison sentence for homicide.

Certainly, as a Bible-believing Christian, I have no doubts whatsoever that aborting an unborn child at any time is murder, and should be punished as such. But I find it ridiculous that the abortion crowd do not seem to see the difference between somebody who intentionally wants to kill their child and somebody who does not want to "treat" a real or perceived medical issue the way the doctor sees fit. God causes the child to grow in the womb, and He knows a lot more about it than the doctor. No doctor in the world would ever have as much loving concern for an unborn child than its mother who has been looking forward to meeting her child. There is a big difference between intentionally killing somebody and situations taking their own, natural course, between somebody who wants to harm their child and somebody who wants to protect it the way they see most fit. No mother has ever refused a Cesarean because they wanted their child to die, but because they wanted what they thought was best for him/her.

Personally, I would most certainly seek the best available medical options to ensure the health and wellbeing of my children, but that decision should ultimately be mine and mine only to make.

Following are some cases to get you thinking. There is not doubt whatsoever in my mind that if you are enjoying a low-risk pregnancy, midwife-attended home birth is the best choice because you as the mother are respected, and the decisions and responsibilities are left in your hands.


Angela Carder struggled with cancer since the age of 13. After years of remission, in 1987 she decided to get married and have a baby. From conception, Ms. Carder made it perfectly clear to her treating obstetrician at George Washington University Hospital: she wanted to be sure her own health was not compromised because of her pregnancy. Sadly, during the 25th week of her pregnancy, she was diagnosed with a lung tumor. Her doctors said that the baby was too premature to have a good chance of survival, and that she would have to wait until her 28th week. Fully knowing the increased risks to her pregnancy, they agreed on a treatment schedule of chemotherapy and radiation to prolong her life. When her condition deteriorated the next day, it never even occurred to her doctors to intervene in an attempt to save the fetus.

Ms. Carder lapsed into unconsciousness. Her parents, husband and medical team all agreed that she would not have wanted any intervention, but the hospital administrators disagreed. The hospital was concerned because the fetus was potentially viable, so it petitioned the court for an order to determine what was best for the fetus. The hasty hearing at the hospital focused only on the fetus’ chance of survival. The court ordered that she be given a Caesarean section and a staff obstetrician grudgingly agreed to perform the surgery, because her treating doctors refused. In the meantime, Ms. Carder came to and was informed of the court ordered cesarean by the staff obstetrician. When she was told that she might die from surgery, Angela Carder said over and over, “I don't want it done.” Despite this, a quickly assembled panel of the appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision, and the hospital charged forward with surgery, against the patient’s clearly expressed wishes.

The baby died within two hours of delivery, and Angela Carder lasted another two days. There is no doubt that the surgery hastened her death.


Washington, D.C. - 1986

A 19-year-old college student was admitted to labor and delivery at 1:45 a.m. experiencing normal contractions; her membranes had ruptured two days earlier at noon. By 11:00 a.m. she was 7 cm dilated but had made no further progress by 10:30 that evening. Because an external electronic fetal monitor was attached, she had to lie in bed, on her left side, for extended periods of time. When she asked to be allowed to walk around to help with her natural delivery, she was advised that hospital regulations and city statutes required her to remain in bed on the monitoring device. The chief of obstetrics examined the patient at noon the following day and reported that there was no evidence of infection or other abnormality. Later that evening the resident in charge wanted to administer pitocin to help speed up the delivery, but he would not do so without her consent to a cesarean delivery should he deem it advisable She refused and requested that she be allowed to continue her natural childbirth in accordance with her Muslim religious principles. Shortly thereafter the physician telephoned a local judge, who convened a hearing at the hospital to determine whether to order the section. The judge appointed attorneys for the parents and the fetus; the hospital’s attorney was also present. The parents were not given an opportunity to confer with their attorney before the hearing, nor were they able to secure the services of a medical expert to counter the testimony of the hospital’s physician. A fourth-year obstetrics and gynecology resident testified that he thought the fetus was in danger of infection because of the length of time since the patient’s membranes had ruptured. On cross-examination, he admitted that there was no objective evidence of any fetal distress. Nevertheless, at 1:05 a.m. the judge ordered surgical intervention. The parents attempted to appeal the ruling but at 2:08 a. m. two appellate justices affirmed the judge’s order. The cesarean delivery was immediately performed; no infection or injury to the fetus was discovered.


January 1996

After having a Cesarean Section with her third birth, Laura Pemberton, a born-again Christian who believes in the blessing of children, wanted to attempts a VBAC with her fourth child. There was no physician in the city where she lived that was willing to take her on, so she decided to have a midwife-attended home birth instead.

Please click here to read what happened after that. The news report fails to mention that when Mrs. Pemberton was transported back to the hospital against her will, the sheriff who "arrested" her tied her legs together on the gurney because she was dilated to 7 cm at this point and he was worried that she might give birth naturally before they had a chance to cut her open.

It should also be mentioned that after this experience, Mrs. Pemberton moved to a different state, where she has had four unattended home births since then, one including twins.


March 2009

Samantha Burton (mother of two young children) had developed signs of miscarriage early in her pregnancy, and was ordered to permanent bed rest by the hospital. She objected, stating that with two children to support, permanent bed rest wasn't possible. When she asked to be discharged or transfered to another hospital, the hospital REFUSED the request because "it was not in the best interest of the fetus," essentially committing Ms. Burton involuntarily to their care.

The move was upheld by the Circuit Court of Leon County who, in addition to committing her against her will, ordered her to undergo any and all medical treatments deemed necessary by the "treating physician of her unborn fetus" to save her fetus, holding that "the ultimate welfare of the fetus overrode Ms. Burton's constitutional right to make medical decisions for herself."

After three days of forced medical confinement, doctors performed an emergency Cesarean section on Ms. Burton and discovered her fetus had already died in utero. She was released shortly after the surgery.

Read more here.


  1. it's completely appalling that these same dr's who take an oath to do no harm would butcher a woman's baby in a hearbeat if she requested it, then pretend to be doing what's in the best interest of the "fetus" by hacking a woman open. Scary!

  2. Every one is so concerned about the safety of the "fetus" but abortion is legal? I feel like you, it disgusts me.

    God Bless

    Mrs. G

  3. As a mama to a little one who was poisoned in the womb by a whole hideous cocktail of illegal and legal-but-unsafe sunstances during pregnancy I would LOVE such a law to be made here in England to save other children from the abuse they suffer in utero. The disconnection where the abortion law is exempted is just such a great example of how their minds barely function on a moral level though...

  4. Wow I hadn't commented because I didn't even know what to say.

  5. Upon seeing a new doctor last week, I'm pretty sure I was forced into an unnecessary C-section. I'll find out more when my full records arrive. It's just wrong that this can be done to women.

    I want to thank you for the copy of "Pushed", it's an excellent book. I really wish I would have read it before my son was born.

  6. Lucy, you allowed people to treat you in illegal ways and then oly blame them and not yourself for how it turned out? This c-section issue isn't even close to the same thing.

  7. I read "Pushed" last month and am currently reading "Born in the USA". American maternity care is absolutely appalling!

    I hope it's okay that I link your post here. I've been wanting to blog about this myself.

    I do think that the push to have fetuses considered 'persons' with rights is damaging to women's choices in birth and as much as I hate the thought of abortion the two issues are intertwined. I agree with you totally that it is murder to intentionally kill an unborn child, but we must be careful. I think the better thing to do is to evangelize the lost and let the Holy Spirit do his part and let the changes come from where they ought, a person's own conscience.

  8. This story is horrifying. I have read on the web that there are a number of court orders by American authorities forcing pregnant women into hospital that have been enforced in every state in America,but not New York,but I am sure it happens there.I am from England and such a thing will never happen in my country. How can you put up with living in a country that forces women to have babies in hospital against their will? I feel very sorry for you having to live in America. Jane,London,England.

  9. Today I am celebrating. 6 months ago I won the battle against M.D.'s who tried to force me to have a C-section. I was having a VBAC, and I was almost 42 weeks pregnant. I was lied to,harrassed, and drug-tested. I was told I was letting my baby die, I was called on the phone by doctors I had never met. They begged me to consent to a cesarean. I declined. I prayed, I won. With the power of God, the support of my husband and the help of 3 wonderful doulas and midwives I triumphed and gave birth at my home in peace. My daughter is a healthy, bright and beautiful baby. Its such a disgrace to healthcare that physicians think they should have the right to intervene and force a c-section. Thank you for your blog!


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