Jennifer Goodall was about to have her fourth child when the ordeal began. Having given birth to three previous children through cesarean section—a surgical procedure that allows a baby to be delivered through a woman's abdomen—the Cape Coral, Florida, mother wanted to try a natural delivery now. But in early July, Bayfront Health Port Charlotte—the hospital where Goodall had been planning on giving birth in about two weeks—told her it wasn't permitted. A letter from Bayfront's chief financial officer said if she attempted a "trial of labor," the facility would report her to the state's Department of Children and Family Services, seek a court order to perform the surgery, and do the procedure "with or without (her) consent" if she stepped foot in the hospital.
None of this means that Goodall's choice was necessarily better. But it was reasonable. This wasn't some particularly risky, out-there thing that she wanted to do. In a 2010 statement, even the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated that "when trial of labor and elective repeat cesarean delivery are medically equivalent options, a shared decision-making process should be adopted and, whenever possible, the woman’s preference should be honored."
But federal District Judge John E. Steele disagreed. In denying Goodall's request, Steele wrote that she has no "right to compel a physician or medical facility to perform a medical procedure in the manner she wishes against their best medical judgment."