Today, many American women find themselves the subject of intense surveillance during pregnancy. Even as pregnant women happily anticipate the birth of a healthy child, families, friends, health care providers, and government officials often scrutinize their actions for behavior that could potentially risk the health of the developing fetus. Increasingly, widely held beliefs about how the “good” pregnant woman should behave have resulted in legal interventions. Physicians, nurses, and other health care providers have often “referred” their patients to law enforcement, resulting in legal interventions that include court-ordered medical treatment, involuntary civil commitment, tort liability, and even criminal prosecution.

To understand this shift we have to appreciate the dynamic connections among medical, media, political, and social attitudes toward pregnancy and the perceived obligation of pregnant women to promote fetal life at all costs. Over the past four decades, coinciding roughly with the legalization of abortion accomplished by Roe v. Wade, lawmakers, criminal prosecutors, and private litigators have increasingly endeavored to hold pregnant women legally responsible for threatening or causing harm to the fetuses contained within their bodies.

The ostensibly neutral principles of American law have been deployed to treat pregnant women as virtual guarantors of fetal and child health. This has eroded the well-established legal principles of informed consent to medical treatment, which is increasingly ignored in the context of pregnancy. In the name of reducing perceived risks to the fetus, courts have ordered pregnant women to submit to unwanted medical treatment, including blood transfusions and caesarean sections, bed rest and hospitalization, psychiatric care, and insulin therapy. An alarming number of pregnant women have been criminally prosecuted for allegedly risking or causing harm to the fetus, based on conduct such as choosing not to deliver by caesarean section, having accidents, or attempting suicide.

Source/ rest: broadly.vice.com