A competent person has a liberty interest under the Due Process Clause in refusing unwanted medical treatment” – even when the treatment is life saving.
Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990).
Pregnant and birthing people are being denied a range of fundamental rights normally associated with constitutional personhood, including the right to life, physical liberty, bodily integrity, due process of law, equal protection, and religious liberty, based solely on their pregnancy status. This denial of fundamental rights extends to midwives and other health professionals who care for pregnant and birthing families.
This legal problem is compounded by a broken maternity care system that spends more and accomplishes less, while maternal mortality is rising, and evidence-based practices are under-utilized.
There is a grave need for knowledgeable lawyers, coordinated strategy, and resources. Currently there is no organization with the capacity to address all of these cases. We aim to fill that void.
Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent commits an assault for which he is liable in damages.
Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hosp., 105 N.E. 92 (N.Y. 1914).
Rights are implicated in the context of childbirth across several areas of the law, including:
- constitutional law
- regulatory law
- international human rights
- civil rights
We build the capacity of our members to respond to these issues through continuing legal education, networking, research, and writing. In addition, we keep and track data, and identify trends and opportunities for strategic action.
In virtually all cases the question of what is to be done is to be decided by the patient – the pregnant woman – on behalf of herself and the fetus.
In re A.C., 573 A.2d 1235 , 1237(1990).
We know that the rights to physical liberty, bodily integrity, due process of law, equl protection, religious liberty, and informed consent are regularly violated during childbirth, and that no other organizations or mechanisms exist to address these violations systematically.
Therefore our goal is to create a systematic way of addressing these violations. The systematic approach includes developing a regional network, keeping and tracking data, and identifying opportunities for advocacy and engagement.