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.

Asylum based on domestic abuse

The US is now allowing asylum on grounds of domestic abuse.

In addition to meeting other strict conditions for asylum, abused women will need to show that they are treated by their abuser as subordinates and little better than property, according to an immigration court filing by the administration, and that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country. They must show that they could not find protection from institutions at home or by moving to another place within their own country.

(Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

First draft for: An essay question for Intro to Philosophy

The answers to the below question might well reveal it was a mistake to ask it.  Still, it would be fun.  OK, fun for a philosophy professor at least.

This is your final essay question.  Your answer must be at least 2000 words.  Remember to use spell check and word count.  All outside sources MUST acknowledged.

PRESIDENT OBAMA has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. It would seem a brilliant choice. Dr. Collins’s credentials are impeccable: he is a physical chemist, a medical geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project.  [As a very religious man who has written about belief in the Christian faith] he is also, by his own account, living proof that there is no conflict between science and religion. 

But most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components — including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.  Dr. Collins has written that “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” and that “the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted.”

Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?

How would you decide the question asked at the end?  Discuss the issues with reference  to the course readings, particularly Descartes, Hume and Kant.  Remember that since this is a philosophy course, your answers are NOT to be justified with reference to the Bible or other religious texts.

Hint:   Consider whether the philosophers think we have immortal souls, free will, genuine altruism and so on.

And who said philosophy is not revelant?  The thing is, one  might be just a bit uncomfortable with their relevance to the choice of the NIH Director.  I mean, we’ve already had Bush’s ethical council that debated stem cell research and other bio-ethical questions.  Do we really want to continue the confusion that the separation of church and state could avoid?

Now, having read way too much about Sotomayor’s comment about a wise Latina woman, we might feel that Collins should not be stuck with the odd comment or two.  However, he has reiterated on a number of occasions his belief that science in effect leaves explanatory gaps for religion to fill, if I’ve  got him right. 

I’m indebted to an Intro class that wanted to look at scientific alternative to Gazzaniga’s  The Ethical Brain for the internet searches that led us to Collins and his arguments.   I’m not sure the issues are clear cut.  PLEASE wade in!


Just about all the text of the question comes from the NY Times.  Not the bits about word count or Descartes, Hume, and Kant, of course.



Just for girls!

Of *course* tape needs to be gendered. What was I thinking to not expect this? Interestingly, the pink girls’ tape was about 30% cheaper than the regular clear kind. I’d like to think this is an attempt at a creative and progressive response to the pay gap, but somehow I doubt that.

And yes, Dear Reader, I did buy it for Jender-Son. I am nothing if not cheap.

CFP: Feminism, Science, and Values

Feminism, Science, and Values

June 25-28, 2010

The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

In June 2010, the International Association of Women Philosophers ( ) will be meeting at The University of Western Ontario. This will be the organization’s first meeting in Canada and only its second meeting in North America. Co-hosted by the Rotman Institute for Science and Values and the Department of Philosophy, the conference is scheduled to take place just before the international conference on science and values organized by the Rotman Institute.

The members of the conference organizing committee are: Gillian Barker, Ariella Binik, Samantha Brennan, Helen Fielding, Katy Fulfer-Smith, Elisa Hurley, Tracy Isaacs, Carolyn McLeod, Karen Nielsen, Kathleen Okruhlik, and Angelique Petropanagos.

The organizing committee invites papers from all areas in philosophy, though we especially welcome papers related to the theme of the conference, Feminism, Science, and Values. We also welcome papers from graduate students. Abstracts should be submitted in English, French, or Spanish. Spanish abstracts will be refereed by the IAPH executive instead of the conference program committee.

There are many possible topics, the following being just a small sample:

. Questions about the content of science; the evaluation of hypotheses; the uses of science; the idea of “value-free science”; the regulation and control of science; the funding of science; science as oppressor of the disadvantaged; science as a liberator of the disadvantaged; science for the people; science and democracy; the “collapse” of the is/ought distinction; the relationship between ethical and epistemic norms; the role of ethics in deciding what sorts of science to pursue; the role of science in the resolution of ethical questions.

. Questions about concepts of sex/gender, race, intelligence, sexuality, sociobiology, health and disease, normalcy, etc., possibly discussed via specific examples and case studies.

. Feminist work on questions in value theory, in either the field of ethics or aesthetics

. Historical studies of the relationship between science and feminist thought.

. Discussions of philosophy’s role in supporting modes of thought that perpetuate bad practices and discussions of philosophy’s emancipatory potential for women and others.

Submissions of long abstracts (750-1000 words) are invited (for eventual presentation of papers that are no more than 3000 words and 20 minutes maximum reading time). We also welcome proposals for panel presentations. For panel proposals, please send a title, a one paragraph description of the panel, names and contact information for all participants, and abstracts for each of the papers on the panel.

Please email all materials as double-spaced Word or RTF attachments, prepared for anonymous review, which requires that you remove all identifying-author tags from your document content and file properties. Send the e-mail to and include within it (not the abstract) your full contact information.

More information will be available about the conference on our website, (coming soon).

*Deadline: Midnight Eastern time August 15, 2009.*

— Elisa A. Hurley
Assistant Professor
Department of Philosophy
The University of Western Ontario
Talbot College 328
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 3K7
(519) 661-2111, ext. 81583

The Sunday cat helps humans get their priorities straight there you are, you and a husband with a two bedroom apartment  in Manhattan and

1.  A baby soon to arrive

2.  A need for two studios, since both of you are artists

3.  A bengal cat

4. A large closet.

Here’s the solution:  the baby gets the closet, the cat gets the second bedroom and you find studios somewhere else.  If you have a problem with that, then you haven’t dealt  with a bengal cat who was there first!.

From the NY Times:

While many accidental sellers are forced into the market for job-related reasons, others are led afoul by the stork.

“Right now, we might put the baby in the closet,” said Elizabeth Demaray, 41, of the compromise she and her husband, Hugo Bastidas, 51, may be forced to make when their first child arrives next month. …

Last year, Ms. Demaray, a sculptor and assistant art professor, and Mr. Bastidas, a painter and art professor, moved to East 116th Street near Lenox Avenue, to a two-bedroom condominium that he also uses as an art studio.

But the 1,200-square-foot space is not big enough for the couple, his canvases, a baby and an exceptionally vocal Bengal cat that must be sequestered in its own bedroom at night if the humans are to sleep…

“If we wind up staying, we’re going to have to find a studio space for both of us, probably somewhere toward Lower Manhattan or possibly Jersey City,” Ms. Demaray said. “But the cat won’t work in the closet.”