Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Mississippi Judge Throws Out Murder Charges Against Woman in Death of Stillborn Child

ProPublica:  Judge Throws Out Murder Charge in Mississippi Fetal Harm Case, by Nina Martin:

The ruling means that the woman whose drug use had her facing a possible life term can at most be charged with manslaughter in the death of her stillborn daughter.

A Mississippi judge has thrown out murder charges against a young woman in the 2006 death of her stillborn child, a significant setback for prosecutors in a controversial case that has been closely followed both by women's rights groups and those interested in establishing rights for the unborn.

Rennie Gibbs, who was 16 when she gave birth to her stillborn daughter Samiya, had been indicted for "depraved heart murder" after traces of a cocaine byproduct were found in the baby's blood. The charge — defined under Mississippi law as an act "eminently dangerous to others...regardless of human life" — carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. . . .

April 4, 2014 in Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mexican Healthcare System Fails Pregnant Indigenous Women

Feministing: No Reproductive Justice for Pregnant Indigenous Women in Mexico, by Juliana:

In October of last year, Irma Lopez Aurelio arrived at a state health clinic in Oaxaca, Mexico, in labor with her third child. The doctors at the clinic told her to come back, that her labor was not advanced enough and no doctor was available to help her. Irma, who is Indigenous, spoke little Spanish and was unable to communicate how advanced her labor was to the monolingual doctors. After hours of waiting, Irma gave birth on the lawn outside of the clinic.

In the past nine months, seven Indigenous women in Mexico have been documented having their babies in the yard, waiting rooms, or front steps of state clinics. . . .

March 24, 2014 in International, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Race & Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Joint Birthing Center and Abortion Clinic Opens in Buffalo, New York

Jezebel: New Birthing/Abortion Clinic in New York Could Change Everything, by Hillary Crosley:

Last month, the first ever birthing center that also houses an abortion clinic opened in Buffalo, New York and it’s called Buffalo WomenServices. The space is one of the first where both the pro-choice and birthing communities coexist beneath the same roof, explicitly. Mind Blown. . . .

March 16, 2014 in Abortion, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Study Verifies Reliability of DNA Test for Fetal Genetic Disorders

The Los Angeles Times: Study calls DNA test reliable in discovering fetal disorders, by Monte Morin:

The screening more accurately identifies likely cases of genetic disorders caused by extra chromosomes, like Down syndrome, in a study of low-risk pregnant women.

It's billed as a faster, safer and more accurate way of screening expectant mothers for fetal abnormalities like Down syndrome, and proponents say it has already become the standard for prenatal care.

But as a handful of California companies market their DNA-testing services to a growing number of pregnant women, some experts complain that the tests have not been proven effective in the kind of rigorous clinical trials that are required of new drugs.

Now, a study published Wednesday by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has verified that one of the tests can identify likely cases of Down syndrome and other genetic disorders caused by extra chromosomes in low-risk women with greater reliability than traditional noninvasive screening methods. . . .

March 1, 2014 in Bioethics, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Brain-Dead, Pregnant Canadian Woman Kept on Life Support, at Husband's Request, To Save Fetus

Reuters: Brain-dead Canadian woman kept on life support to save fetus, by Julie Gordon:

A 32-year-old Canadian woman who has been declared brain dead is being kept on life support in a Victoria, British Columbia hospital, with doctors working to keep her alive long enough to deliver her unborn son. . . .

February 5, 2014 in Bioethics, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Montana Diocese Fires Unwed Catholic School Teacher Because of her Pregnancy

The Missoulian: Montana diocese defends firing of unwed pregnant Catholic school teacher:

The Diocese of Helena is defending its decision to fire an unwed Butte Central teacher because she is pregnant.

Shaela Evenson “made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract,” which requires her to follow Catholic teachings in both her personal and professional life, Superintendent Patrick Haggarty said Tuesday. “It’s a sensitive issue, and it’s unfortunate all around.” . . .

February 5, 2014 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Abortion Rate at a 40-Year Low

The New York Times: Abortions Declining in U.S., Study Finds, by Erik Eckholm:

The abortion rate among American women declined to its lowest level in more than three decades in 2011, according to a new report released Monday that is widely considered the country’s most definitive examination of abortion trends. . . .

The decline in abortions from 2008 to 2011 was mirrored by a decline in pregnancy rates. . . .

February 5, 2014 in Abortion, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pregnant, Brain-Dead Woman Is Removed from Life-Support Pursuant to Court Order

The New York Times: Texas Woman Is Taken Off Life Support After Order, by Manny Fernandez:

A Fort Worth hospital that kept a pregnant, brain-dead woman on life support for two months, followed a judge’s order on Sunday and removed her from the machines, ending her family’s legal fight to have her pronounced dead and to challenge a Texas law that prohibits medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant woman.

On Friday, a state district judge ordered John Peter Smith Hospital to remove the woman, Marlise Muñoz, from life-support machines by 5 p.m. on Monday. . . .

January 26, 2014 in Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Pregnancy & Childbirth, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Texas Keeps Woman on Life Support, Against Her and Her Family's Wishes, to Incubate Her Fetus

DallasNews: Texas denies pregnant woman's grieving family the right to say goodbye, by Jacquielynn Floyd:

Marlise Munoz died the week after Thanksgiving.

Doctors believe she suffered a pulmonary embolism -- a blood clot to the lungs -- that cut off her oxygen. When her husband, Erick, found Marlise in their Tarrant County home, she wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.

She was gone.

If there is any mercy in the sudden loss of this happy young wife and mother, it’s that she doesn’t know she has since lingered in a hopeless twilight, her respiration artificially supported by machines.

She made it clear she didn’t want this. Her grieving husband and parents don’t want it either. But a not-very-well known statute under state law says Marlise, 33, doesn’t have the same right to a peaceful, natural death as other Texans because she is pregnant. . . .

DallasNews: Texas laws unclear in case of pregnant Fort Worth woman kept on life support, by Brittney Martin:

Conflicting Texas statutes are contributing to confusion about whether a hospital must keep a pregnant Tarrant County woman on life support against the wishes of her family. . . .

January 11, 2014 in Fetal Rights, Pregnancy & Childbirth, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

U.S. Teen Pregnancy, Birth, and Abortion Rates Hit Record Lows

ThinkProgress: Pregnancy, Birth, And Abortion Rates For U.S. Teens Have All Hit A Record Low, by Tara Culp-Ressler:

There’s some encouraging news in the Centers for Disease Control’s latest report about pregnancy rates among U.S. women. According to the agency, teen pregnancies have been steadily declining over the past two decades — hitting a new historic low in 2009, the most recent year with data on the subject. That’s led to new lows for the rates of teen births and abortions, too. . . . 

December 5, 2013 in Abortion, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Freedman & Stulberg on Conflicts in Care for Obstetric Complications in Catholic Hospitals

Lori R. Freedman (University of California, San Fransisco) & Debra B. Stulberg (The University of Chicago Medical Center) have published Conflicts in Care for Obstetric Complications in Catholic Hospitals in AJOB Primary Research.  Here is the abstract:

A recent national survey revealed that over half of obstetrician-gynecologists working in Catholic hospitals have conflicts with religious policies, but the survey did not elucidate the nature of the conflicts. Our qualitative study examines the nature of physician conflicts with religious policies governing obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) care. Results related to restrictions on the management of obstetric complications are reported here. Methods: In-depth interviews lasting about one hour were conducted with obstetrician-gynecologists throughout the United States. Questions focused on physicians’ general satisfaction with their hospital work settings and specific experiences with religious doctrine-based ob-gyn policies in the various hospitals where they have worked. Results: Conflicts reported here include cases in which Catholic hospital religious policy (Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services) impacted physicians’ abilities to offer treatment to women experiencing certain obstetric emergencies, such as pregnancy-related health problems, molar pregnancy, miscarriage, or previable premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), because hospital authorities perceived treatment as equivalent to a prohibited abortion. Physicians were contractually obligated to follow doctrine-based policies while practicing in these Catholic hospitals. Conclusions: For some physicians, their hospital's prohibition on abortion initially seemed congruent with their own principles, but when applied to cases in which patients were already losing a desired pregnancy and/or the patient's health was at risk, some physicians found the institutional restrictions on care to be unacceptable.

H/t: Linda Hutjens

November 19, 2013 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Documentary Addresses Lack of Abortion Access on a South Dakota Reservation

Feministing: New Documentary Young Lakota About Lack of Abortion Access on a Reservation, by Juliana Brittos:

In 2006, Cecilia Fire Thunder, Tribal Leader of the Ogala Sioux, threatened to build a women’s health clinic on tribal land in response to a proposed South Dakota no-exceptions abortion ban. This ban meant that the 1 in 3 Native American women who would or had been raped in the state would have to carry any ensuing pregnancies to term. “Young Lakota” follows the story of three young people living on a reservation in South Dakota in the political aftermath of Fire Thunder’s action. Ms. Magazine described the film as, “a story of self-discovery in the midst of political and personal upheaval.” . . .

November 10, 2013 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Film, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Salon on "The Right's War on Pregnant Women"

Salon: The Right's War on Pregnant Women, by Katie McDonough:

It is no secret that this has been a banner year for laws attempting to recriminalize abortion. During the first six months of 2013, states adopted 43 provisions to ban abortion, impose medically unnecessary restrictions on providers or otherwise regulate the procedure into nonexistence.

But framing the current assault on reproductive rights exclusively in terms of abortion rights erases another, equally dangerous reality faced by women who intend to carry their pregnancies to term: laws that establish personhood for fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses aren’t just a threat to women’s access to abortion — they are also being used to criminalize and incarcerate pregnant women. . . . .

November 3, 2013 in Anti-Choice Movement, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Guttmacher Study Suggests Women Often Mistakenly Underestimate Their Risk of Pregnancy

Guttmacher Institute: A Year of Magical Thinking Leads to...Unintended Pregnancy, by Rebecca Wind:

Guttmacher_instQualitative Study Explores Women's Perceptions of Pregnancy Risk

In-depth interviews with 49 women obtaining abortions in the United States found that most of the study participants perceived themselves to be at low risk of becoming pregnant at the time that it happened. According to "Perceptions of Susceptibility to Pregnancy Among U.S. Women Obtaining Abortions," by Lori Frohwirth of the Guttmacher Institute et al., the most common reasons women gave for thinking they were at low risk of pregnancy included a perception of invulnerability, a belief that they were infertile, self-described inattention to the possibility of pregnancy and a belief that they were protected by their (often incorrect) use of a contraceptive method. Most participants gave more than one response. . . .

November 2, 2013 in Contraception, Fertility, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lawsuit Challenges Wisconsin Law Allowing Pregnant Women To Be Incarcerated For Conduct Deemed Risky to Their Fetuses

The New York Times: Case Explores Rights of Fetus Versus Mother, by Erik Eckholm:

Alicia Beltran cried with fear and disbelief when county sheriffs surrounded her home on July 18 and took her in handcuffs to a holding cell.

She was 14 weeks pregnant and thought she had done the right thing when, at a prenatal checkup, she described a pill addiction the previous year and said she had ended it on her own — something later verified by a urine test. But now an apparently skeptical doctor and a social worker accused her of endangering her unborn child because she had refused to accept their order to start on an anti-addiction drug. . . .

_____________________________________

(h/t David Nadvorney)

I found this quotation from one doctor especially chilling:  

“She exhibits lack of self-control and refuses the treatment we have offered her,” wrote Dr. Breckenridge, who, according to Ms. Beltran, had not personally met or examined her. [Dr. Breckenridge] recommended “a mandatory inpatient drug treatment program or incarceration" . . . .

This sounds like something out of The Yellow Wallpaper.

-CEB

October 24, 2013 in Fetal Rights, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Despite Advances, Ethical Problems Continue to Surround Premature Birth

The New York Times - op-ed: End of Life, at Birth, by April R. Dworetz:

FIFTY years ago this Wednesday, Americans were gripped by the fate of a baby — Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the first child born to a sitting president since the 19th century, and John F. Kennedy’s last. He arrived on Aug. 7, 1963, five and a half weeks premature. Despite medical heroics, including the use of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, he died 39 hours later.

Neonatal care has improved greatly since then. Were he born today, Patrick, who was delivered at 34 weeks’ gestation, would very likely survive and have a healthy life, too.

For all the biomedical advances, though, the key ethical problems surrounding premature birth remain. . . .

____________________________________

H/T: Carol Sanger

August 7, 2013 in Bioethics, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Study Shows Poverty is the Real Danger to Children Exposed to Cocaine In Utero

Salon: Long Term Study Debunks Myth of the "Crack Baby", by Katie McDonough:

After nearly 25 years of research, one of the nation’s largest long-term studies on the so-called “crack baby” epidemic of the 1980s has concluded that there are no statistically significant differences in the long-term health and life outcomes between full-term babies exposed to cocaine in-utero and those who were not.

Instead, researchers found poverty to be a key determining factor in how well children performed later in life. As Hallam Hurt, the former chair of neonatology at Albert Einstein Medical Center and the study’s lead researcher, told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine.” . . .

August 4, 2013 in Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Department of Educ. Office for Civil Rights Urges Greater Support for Pregnant and Parenting Students

U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights: Dear Colleague Letter:

Dear Colleague:

We as a nation need to do more to help the hundreds of thousands of young people who become mothers and fathers each year graduate from high school ready for college and successful careers. According to studies cited in the attached pamphlet, Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 26 percent of young men and young women combined who had dropped out of public high schools — and one-third of young women — said that becoming a parent was a major factor in their decision to leave school. And, only 51 percent of young women who had a child before age 20 earned their high school diploma by age 22. The educational prospects are worse at the higher-education level. Only 2 percent of young women who had a child before age 18 earned a college degree by age 30. This low education attainment means that young parents are more likely than their peers to be unemployed or underemployed, and the ones who do find jobs will, on average, earn significantly less than their peers.

To help improve the high school and college graduation rates of young parents, we must support pregnant and parenting students so that they can stay in school and complete their education, and thereby build better lives for themselves and their children. . . .

July 9, 2013 in Parenthood, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, President/Executive Branch, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rebecca Cook on Brazilian Maternal Mortality Case

Rebecca CookRebecca J. Cook (University of Toronto Faculty of Law) has published Human Rights and Maternal Health: Exploring the Effectiveness of the Alyne Decision. The article is available on readcube.  Here is the abstract:

This article explores the effectiveness of the decision of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in the case of Alyne da Silva Pimentel Teixeira (deceased) v. Brazil, concerning a poor, Afro-Brazilian woman. This is the first decision of an international human rights treaty body to hold a state accountable for its failure to prevent an avoidable death in childbirth. Assessing the future effectiveness of this decision might be undertaken concretely by determining the degree of Brazil’s actual compliance with the Committee’s recommendations, and how this decision influences pending domestic litigation arising from the maternal death. Alternative approaches include: determining whether, over time, the decision leads to the elimination of discrimination against women of poor, minority racial status in the health sector, and if it narrows the wide gap between rates of maternal mortality of poor, Afro-Brazilian women and the country’s general female population. Determining the effectiveness of this decision will guide whether to pursue a more general strategy of judicializing maternal mortality.

May 23, 2013 in International, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Akiba Solomon on Evangelical "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" Targeting Black Women

Colorlines:  The Missionary Movement to 'Save' Black Babies, by Akiba Solomon:

Last December, Care Net—the nation’s largest network of evangelical Christian crisis pregnancy centers—featured a birth announcement of sorts on the website of its 10-year-old Urban Initiative. Under the headline, “Plans Underway for Care Net’s Newest Center in Kansas City, Mo.!” a block of upbeat text described how a predominantly white, suburban nonprofit called Rachel House had “made contact” with “various African American pastors and community leaders,” who helped them “plant” a “pregnancy resource center” in a predominantly black, poor section of downtown Kansas City. . . .

May 9, 2013 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Race & Reproduction, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)