Going Solo: The Law and Ethics of Childbirth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Yakovi Gan-Or, Nofar

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on women’s reproductive lives. Women’s access to both abortion and contraceptive care has been restricted in many states across the U.S. Yet, the coronavirus has put a strain on another aspect of women’s reproductive rights: childbirth. In New York, for example, several hospitals instituted bans on all visitors in order to protect obstetric health care providers, as well as patients and newborn babies, from the risks posed by the virus. The policies were met with anger and confusion among expectant parents. An executive order issued in response to such criticism, overruling these policies, was described by some health professionals as unethical and ill-informed. Against this background this Essay maps the ethical and legal issues raised by childbirth visitation bans. It argues that the benefits of such visitation bans should be weighed against the implications they may have on laboring women’s emotional and physical well-being, considering the challenges they already face during facility-based childbirth. It then considers several national and international legal frameworks through which women’s birthing rights may be affirmed, also pointing out where they fall short. Lastly, this Essay makes recommendations for how such rights may be better addressed by different legal actors, including scholars, courts, and legislators.


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Also Published In

Journal of Law and the Biosciences

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January 15, 2021


Keywords: Obstetric Violence, Visitation Bans