03/17/04 — Send her home: Woman is jailed for refusing surgery

View Archive

Send her home: Woman is jailed for refusing surgery

Now let’s get this clear:

If a woman makes a premeditated decision to kill her unborn child through a late-term, or partial-birth, abortion, that’s all right.

A woman can make choices about their own body, so says the law.

But if a woman declines a doctor’s advice to undergo a Caesarian section operation, opting instead for a natural birth, she will be charged with murder if the child is stillborn.

A woman cannot make choices about her own body, so says the law.

At least, so says the law in Utah.

There, Melissa Ann Rowland was charged with murder when one of her twins was stillborn. Doctors had advised her to have a Caesarian section, but she didn’t want to.

A prosecutor said the reason for Ms. Rowland’s decision appeared to have been cosmetic — she didn’t want the scar that a C-section leaves.

That doesn’t seem likely. Ms. Rowland had already had two C-sections, and another wouldn’t have made much difference in her scarring.

If the doctors were so certain that one or both of the twins would not survive a natural birth, they could have gone to court to get a judge’s order to perform the surgery. Hospitals have fast tracks to judges in what doctors consider to be emergencies, so the doctors could be said to bear some responsibility for the death of one of Ms. Rowland’s twins.

Certainly these doctors ought not to be put in jail. But, neither should Ms. Rowland. The state of Utah should drop the charges against her.

Published in Editorials on March 17, 2004 12:01 PM