Pregnant woman in a hospital bed with stomach exposed

Coercive Interventions in Pregnancy: Law and Ethics

The Journal of Health Care Law and Policy recently published a co-authored article by director Debra DeBruin, PhD, an expert in social justice, gender equity, public health policy, and vulnerability in research. The paper, "Coercive Interventions in Pregnancy: Law and Ethics" was co-written with former Center for Bioethics faculty member Mary Faith Marshall, PhD and begins with: 

"Women experience tremendous pressure to protect fetuses from risk during pregnancy. The dominant idea of a ‘good mother’ in North America requires that women abjure personal gain, comfort, leisure, time, income, and even fulfillment; paradoxically, during pregnancy, when the woman is not yet a mother, this expectation of self-sacrifice can be even more stringently applied. The idea of imposing any risk on the fetus, however small or theoretical, for the benefit of a pregnant woman’s interest has become anathema.

While this pressure to avoid fetal risk pervades women’s day-to-day choices during pregnancy, this discussion focuses on coercive interventions in pregnancy, including forced cesarean sections and penalties for exposing fetuses to risk."

"We believe that bioethics has a fundamental & ongoing role to play at the bedside, within professional associations, in the education of clinicians & jurists, in joining & authoring amicus briefs in legal cases, & in fostering a national conversation about the harms to women, to their children, to public health, & to the integrity of professional obstetricians & jurists imposed by coercive interventions in pregnancy."
- Debra DeBruin PhD and Mary Faith Marshall, PhD