Last Thursday, a pregnant woman in Spokane received notice of a court order—an order entered without giving her any notice or an opportunity to be heard—that was granted to her former partner six days prior. The order completely violated her rights as a woman, as an expectant mother, and as a domestic violence survivor, while granting rights to a man who has not been legally established as her expected child’s parent.
The court had ordered her to:
- immediately contact her former partner when she went into labor and tell him where she planned to give birth
- allow him and his parents to be at the hospital when she gave birth
- allow him and his parents to visit with her child in the hospital
- not enter any contract to have the child “sold”—an offensive and unnecessary provision that appeared to be based on negative stereotypes about her Romani origin
This order offended so many of her fundamental rights: her rights to procreative and medical privacy, her right as a parent to decide who has access to her child, and her right to gender equity. And because she is a domestic violence survivor, the order significantly increased her vulnerability by requiring her to notify her former partner of her location when she gave birth and to permit him and his family access to her newborn child.
When we learned of this case last Friday afternoon, we knew we could not let it stand. With her due date rapidly approaching, we had to act quickly. So we spent the weekend drafting a response to the court’s order, working with co-counsel from the YWCA Alternatives to Domestic Violence program in Spokane.
We appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on her behalf, and we are pleased to say that the Court agreed with our arguments and struck down the requirements that she notify her former partner when she went into labor and allow him and his parents access to the hospital and to her child. The Court also struck the offensive provision about “selling” her child and cautioned her former partner against invoking negative stereotypes.