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Mad, bad or simply wronged?

July 28, 2009

Louise Marie Roth writes in The Huffington Post:

New Assaults on Pregnant Women’s Civil Rights in a NJ Case

Yet another ruling is providing legal support for the false belief that obstetricians are infallible and stripping pregnant women of basic civil rights that are then accorded to other individuals. In the case, New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. V.M. and B.G., the New Jersey appellate court found that V.M. and B.G. had abused and neglected their child, based on the fact that the mother, V.M., refused to consent to a cesarean section and behaved erratically while in labor. The mother gave birth vaginally without incident, and the baby was “in good medical condition.” Then she was never returned to her parents, and the judge in the case approved a plan to terminate their parental rights and give custody of the child to foster parents. What, beyond the obvious, is wrong with this picture?

Kate Harding writes in Salon.com:

Refusing a c-section = abuse and neglect?

It still sounds (and might actually be) pretty damned outrageous. What credible evidence could prove that a mother who wasn’t allowed to take her baby home from the hospital is guilty of abuse and neglect? Well, apparently, neither parent showed up to the first court hearing, days after J.M.G. was born, and when a caseworker called to ask where they were, B.G. answered, claimed he was not B.G., and claimed not to know who the caseworker was or anything about a hearing. Thus J.M.G. was placed in foster care. After the next hearing, where V.M.’s history of psychiatric illness and refusal to take prescribed medication came up, two psychologists who attempted to evaluate V.M. and B.G. ended up getting restraining orders against them; the second “was assaulted in the parents’ home.” Additionally, “The group contracted to provide parenting classes stated that it could not provide V.M. with services absent a psychological evaluation due to her disruptive and uncontrollable behaviour…

Caesarean rates in America are unbelievably high due to many non-medical reasons, and we all know what Naomi Wolf thinks: Research shows, she claims, that half of the more than 800,000 caesareans performed each year are motivated not by fetal distress but by the fear of lawsuit and the desire to increase profits. All this surgery has done little to optimize perinatal results.

Hard to know where the truth lies in this – a seemingly mentally ill woman makes a sensible decision and gives birth to a healthy baby.  Baby put into foster care, foster parent says maternal mother would make a good parent yet child still not returned to the maternal mother.  Why?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2009 10:15

    This isn’t new. There were cases similar to this in the UK around 1996/1997. A couple of working class women were threatened with sectioning under the mental health act if they didn’t comply and have a c-section. The reason being these women were threatened with Section 3 was because they went against the doctors wishes hence the sectioning (once sectioned they would be forced into having a c-section). Fortunately, the excellent and wonderful Wendy Savage got involved and these women got an excellent barrister, Barbara Brewster (I think), there were emergency court hearings and thankfully the court supported the women.

    But the fact the medical profession used the mh act to coerce these women was shocking. I wrote about it at the time (for a newsletter I help edit) for the mh user org. Suvivors Speak Out.
    We got a lot of interest in the article esp. from women who had been labelled with mental distress and had gone against the medical profession wishes. The article argued (well, I did) that the medical profession should really (if there’s not emergency etc) accept the woman’s choice.

    We condemned the doctors behaviour, and I also think the women were being punished for daring to refuse the doctors wishes, and there’s still a hellva amount of snobbery. The message; ‘obey the medical establishment’ I mean, look what the medical profession did to Wendy Savage for speaking out against the sexist male dominated medical profession, patriarchal through and through…..

    Anyway, I digress…. the court’s judgement, at the time, was similar to what the courts had agreed in the States, that women could make a choice that goes against medical wishes. Wendy Savage reviewed the cases of these women and said she could see no reason why they couldn’t have a vaginal birth and attacked the over emphasis of c-sections, (conveyor belt births).

    So I see it is happening again, it was happening in the States as well around that time in the mid-late 90s.

  2. July 28, 2009 10:43

    PS: the woman in question is, I suspect, working class. And sexism is intertwined with class, as in the case of the women in the UK. And the medical profession reflects the class nature and oppression.

  3. July 28, 2009 13:12

    I agree Harpy, this woman would not have been treated like this if she was monied – she would more than likely have had better treatment for her mental illness as well – leading to support for her as a mother rather than this absolute punishment!

    I missed the discussion of this on Feministing http://community.feministing.com/2009/07/a-woman-in-labour-iscan-be-inc.html which also raises important points.

    I read Misconceptions when I was pregnant, as you do!, and it helped me a great deal with dealing with the misogynist ob consultants. I refused to see the worst of them and remember waddling off when one came to speak to me in hospital. Unfortunately I did have to have an emergency C-secton and know well that it isn’t something to be taken lightly! Even though it is treated as something straightforward it is MAJOR abdominal surgery.

    When/if the system gets back to midwife led care then it will be much better for all involved.

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