Hastings Women’s Law Journal


Gina Gribow


The right to bodily integrity is one of the most valued rights within our society. Yet, pregnant women have found this right to be jeopardized when making the informed decision to either accept or refuse medical treatment when the treatment is deemed necessary to improve or save the life of the fetus. Often, religion and culture play a central role in either establishing a basis for why the woman refuses the treatment, or establishing the context that ultimately leads to forced obstetrical intervention. Historically, it seems that when religion or culture is heavily intertwined with the woman’s decision to forgo medical treatment, courts have more strongly favored the interests of the state in protecting the unborn fetus. Though in recent decisions it appears that courts are beginning to place greater emphasis on a woman’s inherent right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity, there is still a lack of a general consensus in regard to which rights should be valued more highly.