Elizabeth Nolan Brown on Forcing Pregnant Women Into Surgery

As hospitals and courts collude, pregnant women are being excluded from fundamental decisions about how they give birth.


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Jennifer Goodall was about to have her fourth child when the ordeal began. Having given birth to three previous children through cesarean section—a surgical procedure that allows a baby to be delivered through a woman's abdomen—the Cape Coral, Florida, mother wanted to try a natural delivery now. But in early July, Bayfront Health Port Charlotte—the hospital where Goodall had been planning on giving birth in about two weeks—told her it wasn't permitted. A letter from Bayfront's chief financial officer said if she attempted a "trial of labor," the facility would report her to the state's Department of Children and Family Services, seek a court order to perform the surgery anyway, and do the procedure "with or without (her) consent" if she showed up at the hospital. 

Goodall's case is far from an anomaly, Elizabeth Nolan Brown explains. At hospitals across the country, pregnant women are banned from making fundamental decisions about their medical care and coerced into compliance with threats of involving the state.