Forcing Pregnant Women to Have Cesarean Surgery Is Never Justified

Pregnancy Justice advocates for all pregnant women, including those who want to end a pregnancy and have an abortion, those who suffer miscarriages or stillbirths, and those who go to term. We believe that no woman should be denied her human and civil rights because she is pregnant. Yet, as The New York Times reported, that is exactly what happened to Rinat Dray, who was forced to have a cesarean surgery over her express objections.

Ms. Dray went to Staten Island University Hospital to deliver her third child. When she exercised her right to medical decision-making and refused cesarean surgery, the hospital simply overruled her. Ms. Dray filed a lawsuit against the hospital and two physicians for, among other things, violation of New York's Public Health Law providing that patients have a right to refuse treatment. According to the lawsuit, a physician wrote in her medical records: "The woman has decisional capacity. I have decided to override her refusal to have a c-section."

Because of Pregnancy Justice's experience documenting and challenging forced interventions on pregnant women (as well as arrests and civil child welfare actions brought against women who refuse cesarean surgery) Ms. Dray, and her counsel Michael M. Bast, of Silverstein and Bast, sought our advice and support.

With Pregnancy Justice's help, Ms. Dray brought her case to public attention, exposing both what happened to her and the overuse of cesarean surgery in the United States and the coercive actions taken against pregnant women who refuse that surgery. In a press briefing coordinated by Pregnancy Justice and hosted by RH Reality Check, Mr. Bast and Ms. Dray spoke about the lawsuit. Pregnancy Justice Staff Attorney Farah Diaz-Tello, Elan McAllister of Choices in Childbirth, Prof. Mary Faith Marshall, PhD, FCCM (Director, Program in Biomedical Ethics, University of Virginia School of Medicine), and Katharine Morrison, MD, FACOG (Director, Buffalo WomenServices - the first combined abortion clinic and birthing center in the US) provided expert analysis of the case. The full press call is available as an archive on RH Reality Check.

As The New York Times story that followed noted: "Across the country, nearly 33 percent of births, or almost 1.3 million, were by cesarean section in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization recommends that the rate should not be higher than 10 to 15 percent."

Pregnancy Justice will continue to advocate for Ms. Dray as her case proceeds and for all pregnant women who are denied their civil and human rights. We hope that you will join us. Stay tuned to Pregnancy Justice's Facebook and Twitter for more information on how to get involved.