Michael Ulrich


In Doe v. Division of Youth & Family Services, a hospital employee sought state intervention when an HIV-positive woman refused to comply with treatment recommendations during her pregnancy that would drastically reduce the chances of mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT), eventually triggering a lawsuit against the hospital. With an increase in the number of HIV-positive women becoming pregnant and the courts avoiding constitutional analysis of a woman's right to refuse medical treatment, there is a clear void where legal analysis is surely needed. This Article fills this void for the inevitable case where an HIV-positive pregnant woman's right to refuse medical treatment is weighed against the state interest in the fetus. Abortion case law recognizes and upholds the state interest in fetal life, but state interest in fetal health has yet to be established as a compelling interest which may override the constitutionally protected right of the woman. Meanwhile, compelled-treatment jurisprudence has unfailingly relied on protecting the potentiality of life. As such, this Article demonstrates that prior precedent demands a pregnant woman's liberty interest in bodily integrity be protected, as opposed to further relegating pregnant women into a group of second-class citizens whose right to refuse treatment is weakened by the mere fact of pregnancy. In ignoring prior jurisprudence, a court would sustain the stigma surrounding HIV and cause regression in education. Meanwhile, examining the issue through a public health lens reveals that a genuine interest in fetal health would support education rather than compelled treatment to ensure HIV positive pregnant women are not driven from the health care system they clearly need.

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