Sunday, 26 July 2009

Pregnant women's rights US style

Three years ago, a pregnant woman who refused a continuous monitor when she was in labour and refused a caesarian section was given two psychiatrist consultations and found to be behaving 'erratically'. The woman gave birth normally to a healthy baby during the second psychiatric consultation. Because of her non-compliance, the woman was diagnosed as 'paranoid schizophrenic'.

The hospital in question has a caesarian section rate of nearly 50%. 'They' decided, because the woman was not 'cooperative' that the woman and her partner were not fit to care for their child and they took the baby away from her at birth.

Her baby was never returned to her.

That 'stolen child' situation has recently come to media attention

Some facts:

The baby was born normally and well
The woman had a history of abuse
The woman had a history of depression (pronounced well in 2005 and no longer requiring medication)
The hospital had a caesarean section rate of nearly 50%
The court decided the woman's refusal to have a caesarean indicated child abuse of an unborn child, even though the fetus has no legal rights
The court decided the woman did not have the right to make an informed choice

The court decision cites hospital records that describe the mother, V.M., as "combative," "uncooperative," "erratic," "noncompliant," "irrational" and "inappropriate."

Sounds like normal labour behaviour of many women to me, especially women who have been sexually abused as children and who have not had the opportunity to work things through with their midwife.

The judge was overheard telling V in one of her hearings that he felt she would be 'too argumentative and that would wind up hurting her child. For instance, she would argue with teachers and receptionists at the dentist office.'

Hmmm, anyone else ever argued with someone about something to do with your child? Anyone else ever argued with a teacher?

Henci Goer, the medical writer, joined several doctors and birth/women/rights related organisations and they together filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to support the appeal that was filed by the parents.

They lost. A supreme court appeal is likely.

In Australia, we all have to be very clear that women are autononous; that women have the right to decide what they will do or not do; that women have sovereignty over their own selves and their pregnancies. Women have the right to give birth where and with whom they choose. Full stop.

The situation that has happened to V could happen here.

Come to Canberra 7th September 2009 and make your presence felt. Write letters, see your local member. Help them understand what normal labour is like and what women need. Our future as a sane and just society depends upon it.

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