Press Statement: Florida Doctor Threat of Arrest of Pregnant Woman Dangerous and Without Legal Authority

March 6, 2013

CONTACT: Farah Diaz-Tello
212-255-9252 ext. 31

Pregnancy Justice
Press Statement
Florida Doctor Threat of Arrest of Pregnant Woman Dangerous and Without Legal Authority

Tampa, Florida: Ms. Lisa Epsteen, a Florida woman who is pregnant, reached out today to Pregnancy Justice for advice. According to Ms. Epsteen, she was being threatened with arrest if she did not immediately go to the hospital and submit to cesarean surgery. An email from Jerome Yankowitz, M.D., the Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of South Florida, to Ms. Epsteen threatens that the providers of Tampa General Hospital and the University of South Florida may have “no choice” but “to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in.”

Pregnancy Justice has sent a letter to the hospital explaining that the threat of arrest lacks justification in both law and medical ethics. Farah Diaz-Tello, Pregnancy Justice Staff Attorney explained, “Women do not lose their rights to medical decision making, bodily integrity and physical liberty upon becoming pregnant or at any stage of pregnancy, labor or delivery.”

Ms. Epsteen has expressed her intent to schedule cesarean surgery for later this week. Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of Pregnancy Justice stated “Any attempt to force her to undergo the surgery by means of arrest and detention in the hospital is without legal justification and in defiance of a clear medical consensus that such threats and actions undermine maternal, fetal, and child health.” Ms. Paltrow added, “Our research regarding related actions around the country (see Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law) raises serious concerns about the misuse of state authority to deprive pregnant women of their constitutional personhood and to endanger the health of women and babies.”