How refusing a C-section can cost you your parental rights

This looks to me like a nightmare story.  The doctors and nurses wanted to perform a C-section; the mother refused it.  The baby was delivered vaginally and was perfectly fine. 

Because she refused the C-section and acted distraught, the  mother was not allowed to take the child home.  Refusing the C-section counted as abusing and neglecting her baby.

And now the mother’s been refused a reinstatment of  her parental rights because, it seems, she’s had a lot of trouble coping with the fact that her daughter has been in foster care since her birth

Here’s the court sanctioned description of what’s happened.  There’s a fairly short explanation in the NY Times.  I am not sure the writer has the details all correct.  She also doesn’t seem to have much sense of how symptoms of mental illness can arise as a result of being put in an insane, dehumanizing and emotionally excruciatingly painful  situation.

Many of us surely have been in the situation in which nothing we said was considered  as anything other than a sign of compliance or non-compliance.  And heaven help you if  you are non-compliant.  It’s not entirely easy to keep behaving sanely in such an insane situation.  In fact, if one of these people catches you on the phone, you might even be so stupid as to pretend you don’t know what they’re talking about.  And that would be really bad, because that could pretty  much kill your chances of getting the baby back.  After all, it shows it was insanity that led you to refuse the C-section.  And the people making the decisions believe in preventive termination of parental rights.  Though the mother hasn’t actually harmed the child in any way, they describe her as abusive because they think her mental state is that of an abusive mother.

I hope that someone reading this carefully will discover it isn’t as bad as it seems to me.   I do think the crucial question is about assessing the behavior of someone in one of these awful situations where one’s status as a full human being with some knowledge and understanding has been thoroughly wiped away.   That and preventive termination of parental rights.

Miranda Fricker has, many will know, written wonderfully about the consequences of epistemic injustice.


I’ve just seen that  an earlier reference to this story appear as a comment on this post.  Thanks, Hippocampa.

20 thoughts on “How refusing a C-section can cost you your parental rights

  1. this story is incredible. there’s been a ruling recently (sorry, i can’t remember where i saw this, and i can’t remember what state it was–maybe someone can help me out?) that women can’t be compelled to have c-section because even if the fetus were a person, there’s no situation that the law recognises that could justify compelling one person to undergo a surgical procedure for the sake of another person, and c-section is no different. -so, it sounds (i haven’t had a chance to look at the links, so i’m going on jj’s run-down) as tho, since they knew they probably wouldn’t be able to get a court order compelling her to have the c-section, they decided to punish the woman after the fact for noncompliance. infuckingcredible (pardon my language, but surely there is no other way to describe it). and now, of course, since she’s in america, land of the happy pill, she gets to wear the mark of the devil for *showing human emotion*! it’s like something out of kafka…only with knife-happy surgeons.

    i need to stop thinking about this now. my head’s going to explode.

  2. I’m sick with adrenalin myself. Her continuing behavior is being described as abusive – not that it does the child any conceivable harm, but because she’s frantic or some such.

    And there seems to be a group gathering who are going to decide she is schizophrenic.

    It seems to me to have the air of evil about it, but that might be the adrenalin speaking.

    On the other hand, it strikes me as like the Gates case in some ways: there are people with a lot of power and you’d better figure out how to be compliant or you may pay quite a price.

  3. The approved description of what was wrong with her behaviour is stunning. She “refused to hold still” for foetal monitoring and “thrashed about: so they couldn’t administer an epidural. She was “screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs”. A woman in labour thrashing? Screaming? Yelling? Unheard of. Clearly grounds for taking the baby away.

  4. besides that, what the hell kind of a mother would you be if you *didn’t* flip out when your tiny baby is taken away from you?? had she taken it calmly, they’d’ve said she was nuts just the same.

    this is shocking. and *terrifying* that it’s not making big news.

  5. right, so i’ve read some of this now. it is SO messed up. first, if anyone needed any further proof, this just goes to show that one ought never never never see a psychiatrist. no better way to forfeit your rights than to have a record of psychiatric care! and are we surprised that her record over 12 years appears to perfectly track trends in poppsych?: ptsd and depression; then schitzoaffective disorder; then bipolar. i mean, she might has well have been receiving treatment from oprah.

    so, they take her baby away because she won’t have a c-setion. (and as jender points out, because she’s doing really mad things like *screaming in labour*!) but when the couple are telephoned two days later and told that there’s a court hearing to determine whether their child will be taken away, the “husband” reports on the phone that he isn’t that person, that they’ve got the wrong number, that he doesn’t know what they’re talking about and hangs up; and then the couple don’t show up at the hearing; and then they later report that they were never telephoned and never told there was a court hearing. and from this, the court concludes THAT THEY’RE BOTH PSYCHOTIC. oh my god! how about YOU GOT THE WRONG FECKING PHONE NUMBER!?

    so now, the HUSBAND is also crazy: he suffers ‘”folie à deux,” a rare condition in which one person subscribes to the psychoses and paranoid delusions of another.’ so, because he thinks his wife is sane and ought to have her baby back, (and because he didn’t intuit that some stranger with a phone number similar to his had been summoned to court??) now he’s crazy too.

    but then: the court seems to be ruling that the c-section *didn’t* constitute abuse or neglect in the first place; that the woman had a constitutional right to refuse c-section, even if it put her or the fetus as risk. (in other words, that they had no grounds for taking the baby away to begin with.) BUT since mum and dad are both *psychotic* now, it doesn’t matter. they don’t get their child back.

    absolutely amazing.
    and utterly terrifying.
    i actually don’t think, after reading most of the document, that the real freakiness of this is to do with the c-section. i think the real freakiness is to do with the way that mental illness is approached. it’s as if the perception of her, and then him, snowballed in a chinese-whispers sort of way: one person catches wind she’s seen a shrink; that person decides, then, that her behaviour is probably part of being mentally ill; then that ‘mad’ behaviour becomes proof of full-on mental illness, which then causes further behaviour to be interpreted as even more crazy; etc etc until in the end, she goes from depress and slightly traumatized, to completely psychotic with a completely psychotic husband to boot.

    eek eek eek. kafkaesque doesn’t even begin to describe.

  6. And also– smuggled in somewhere– is mention of the fact that she hasn’t been able to work since injuries that occurred when she was forced to participate in a “mock boxing match” at her workplace– which also caused her PTSD. WTF????

  7. This is such a frightening, sickening case that I’m really just speechless. I can only hope that this couple get their baby back and are vindicated in the end, though I think the chances of that are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

  8. This scares me so incredibly much, because it shows that even in the 21st century, even with women in the workplace and in politics and (supposedly) viewed as rational beings, when it comes to something as critical as giving birth to one’s own child, a woman is not considered intelligent or rational enough to decided what is right for herself.

    Having also read the long thread of elp’s post on Dr. Walsh, this seems to be a societal warning of what might happen if we let women become more informed and take control over the birthing process (unless it involves surgery). Clearly, elp’s and Dr. Walsh’s arguments are going to be met with a fight. Even if caregivers are forced to give women full information and respect their decisions, they will find a way to punish us later for not listening to them…

  9. It is true that the staff at St. Barnabas knew they weren’t going to be able to obtain a court order to do a c-section so they decided to make a false report with regard to abuse and neglect of the fetus/child. It is a class E felony and a misdemeanor to make a false report of child abuse. Stating that a mother or father refused a c-section, testing, medication
    and had a history of mental health treatment does not constitute abuse or neglect of a child. In addition, adjectives
    such as combative, erratic, inappropriate with regard to a patient’s demeanor does not constitute abuse or neglect of a child. The judges who made the decision are trying to fool
    all of us. Unfortunately if this case is not overturned by either
    the N.J. Supreme Court or the United States Supreme court then the child protective services lawyers will be able to use this case to take a lot of newborns and child away from parents
    who have refused any intervention or parents who treated or
    are treating for mental illness. I do not believe that parents
    who have children or are planning to have children should seek mental health treatment.. Most of the psychiatrist are real
    bastards and will call child protective services on their own
    patients. I would not trust any mental health professional when it comes to parental custodial rights. The more pain and
    suffering a psychiatrist can inflict on his patient the more money he makes. In addition, a lot of the psychiatrists and
    psychologist get their patients in trouble with child protective
    services. I talked with one who claimed that he called child
    protective services on a lot of his patients. If that type of thing
    is likely to happen then it is not worth taking the risk. In addition, St. Barnabas Hospital located in Livingston, N.J. seems
    like a dangerous place for pregnant women to give birth.

  10. Never talk to a therapist. If you have or EVER intend to have children- never seek mental help services. Find a friend.

  11. I am a woman in South Carolina that was forced to have a c-section after being lied to and told that I was being moved to the OR just to be on the safe side. They lock my husband out and when they got me through the doors the side that they were going to do a c-section anyway and tied me down to the table and gassed me. Then while we were still at the hospital the call DSS on me. There is still a case against me. My advise to any woman now a days is not to go to a hospital. It is not safe any longer.

  12. I re-posted because I did not prof read before hitting the submit button. I am a woman in South Carolina that was forced to have a c-section after being lied to and told that I was being moved to the OR just to be on the safe side. They lock my husband out and when they got me through the doors they said that they were going to do a c-section anyway and tied me down to the table and gassed me. We tried pressing charges against the doctor and nurse for what they did to me. AND yes I was in labor and thrashing? Screaming? Yelling?. Because labor hurts and they would not give me anything for pain. Even after I asked for it. Then while we were still at the hospital they called DSS on me. There is still a case against me. My advise to any woman now a days is not to go to a hospital. It is not safe any longer.

  13. I’m so sorry to hear about this experience; thanks so much, though, for sharing the information, frightening though it is.

  14. Wow Tina, that’s an awful experience.
    I hope you and your scion are recovering well from the physical part of it though… and all the luck with fighting for your rights.

  15. Yes, it is. Of course, we do not really know the cause and effect here, but it is still true that putting people in situations such as hers can have exceptionally bad psychological effects.

    I remember a psychiatrist I knew in Oxford saying he was very angry at the way the Warneford Maternity Hospital acted; he said they effectively created a need for psychiatric treatment.

  16. i was brought to this world by csec . ,and i have to say it has life long effects on both mother and child ,especially boys having less understanding of a womans body.bruce lee was also “born”that way ,and his … about tapping your foot stems from defending his mothers “fallen leaf” which is supposed to be hidden to serve it’s purpose.

  17. First of I like to point out something here. There is case law that says that if there is a split decision the favorable ruling must be given to the mother. I also like to piont something else. Dr. Vivian schiedman and alice neidleman both who were involved in this woman termination of parental rights is a complete muppets for dyfs and they both sell there license to the state. Which I can prove it. Both of this doctors render decisions in my case saying I couldn’t parent my kids cause they were special needs and I have mental health issues. I want to inform everyone my kids became special needs after being placed in a home with a convicted murderer who abused them. Then the next home both were sexually abused. According to both of them it my fault. Not to mention 3 weeks after both of these fraudulent doctors testified the appallate court ruled dyfs didn’t prove abuse or neglect in my nor coupd they prve risk of harm. Both doctors were asked to do new evals with this new evidence both refused. No a few months there refusal the court appointed a doctor. What do you know he gave me a very good report with this new evidence. This reports the court completely ignores the report in my case and still says I have mental health issues. I want to remind everyone dyfs speaks to the dead. I can prove that as well. I my case they are mad cause the appallate court put them on blast at the fact finding calling the judge I guote wide in making her decision. Now every last judge hates me in the court house I pressed charges on the judge for lying in ruling saying she order me to something and she never did.

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