A Florida mother of three wants to try for a vaginal birth after three Caesarean sections, but her medical provider is threatening to force her to have another C-section against her will.
I honestly thought I was reading a satire article from The Onion when I read about a mother being forced into a C-section by a hospital and a judge. But it’s really happening. How outrageous is this? Jennifer Goodall, who has had three prior C-sections, wants to do a trial of labor in hopes of a vaginal birth. Unfortunately, her care providers have informed her that this is not OK.
C-section surgery against a mother’s will
Disturbing, right? And it gets even worse. A press release issued by National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) states that her prenatal care providers intend to seek a court order to perform surgery with — or without — her consent. They also plan to report her to the Department of Children and Family Services, thereby threatening the custody of her children. In response, the NAPW, in conjunction with Florida attorney Patricia E. Kahn, filed a complaint at the federal level hoping for a temporary restraining order. This would prevent the hospital from carrying out these threats, but the complaint was denied by Federal District Judge John E. Steele.
A disturbing violation of ethics
Doctors and other medical professionals can give you guidance and they can recommend for and against specific procedures. However, they cannot force you to undergo surgery or any other procedure if you do not want it. They cannot even force you to stay in a hospital if you want to leave. Threatening Goodall with legal action if she tries to have a vaginal birth is not only crazy, it’s frightening.
She, like every other human being, is entitled to body autonomy because pregnancy doesn’t render an adult woman without rights. She ultimately has the final say over what is and isn’t done to her own body. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Committee on Ethics writes, “Justice requires that a pregnant woman, like any other individual, retain the basic right to refuse medical intervention, even if the intervention is in the best interest of her fetus.”
Goodall writes that instead of respecting her wishes, the hospital has instilled fear. I honestly cannot imagine being in her position. This bewildering series of events is hard to comprehend, but she’s acting with bravery and intelligence.
Update on Jennifer Goodall’s delivery
Goodall welcomed a son today after being permitted to labor. She consented to surgery when her labor didn’t progress.