December 04 2013, 08:42 AM
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.
Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
If you are not absolutely terrified and outraged by this you are wrong. The precedent this sets put every person on earth in danger.
oh my god read the article this is FUCKING HORRIFIC. she got back on her bipolar disorder medication and is in recovery but they won’t give her her child back “because of the risk she might relapse”. What you’re fucking saying with that is that mentally ill people shouldn’t even be allowed children even if they’re safe and well *just in case*, that we’re a permanent threat to ourselves and others even when we’re in treatment and recovery and living a stable life. I am FUCKING LIVID
Over a fucking panic attack. I’m fucking serious, all of this over a single panic attack. They took her baby in the most horrific way possible because she had a fucking panic attack.
From the Article:
She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.
It’s worth noting, that it’s very common for people on psychiatric medication to go off of their meds if they become pregnant, because of risk of side effects.
I bolded the above. I wanted there to be no one to think that she was being irresponsible for not haven taken her meds regularly. She did it for good reason, for the health of her own baby. And she got punished for it.
i fucking cant
So she did what was best for her kid, has ONE SINGLE PANIC ATTACK WHICH IS A THING THAT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE WHETHER THEY HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS OR NOT and decide that they can literally violate her body in a horrific manner and take her kid away. But she’s the dangerous one.
Terribly sad. I hope this gets worked out in her benefit.
I can’t even imagine how terrifyingly awful that situation had to have been. Forcing a woman, against her will, to undergo sedation and then waking up in pain, without the fetus you’ve been carrying for 9 months? That’s beyond the pale. How much do the rights of an unborn fetus circumvent the rights of a full-grown adult? How much do we have to other the mentally ill, treating them (us) as less than human? She was literally treated like a breeding animal, with no cause of concern for her safety, mental health or well-being. Fuck. Fuck.
This is literally the stuff that horror movies are made of.
When K was relating this story to me, I couldn’t believe it until I read the article for myself. Have we really gotten to the point that a woman who, even just from the stress of being pregnant, has a panic attack can legally have her baby ripped out of her body and be thrown into a mental institution? Did we slip back into the 19th century, because I don’t recall any horse-drawn buggies going by outside.
This is why we need mental health reform. This is why we need women’s rights. This is why we need to treat fellow humans like fucking humans, not livestock to be cast aside when they seem a little “off.”
This is horrific
What’s really terrifying to me is that, as a commenter alluded to above, this hearkens back to mental health policies that we had ostensibly done away with decades and decades ago. I had thought we’d established that they were barbaric and wrong, but apparently not.
Here’s a story for you: in my province, for the better part of the 20th century, we practiced forced sterilization of several groups, including the ‘mentally ill’ (and I’m using quotation marks here because there were certain groups that were statistically more likely to be deemed mentally unfit than others and those groups tended to be already oppressed and ‘undesirable’ to the moral majority of the time, big surprise).
This was a huge part of my province’s history, so, of course, I never heard about it throughout my education, until I took a university-level course on Race & Anthropology and we covered eugenics. I was horrified. There is a great deal of mental illness in my family, including one of my parents. The idea that my family members could have been forcibly sterilized in my own province as of only a few decades ago was terrifying to me.
Now, it’s not as if my province was unusual in its embrace of eugenics in the early twentieth century. Nazi Germany was not even remotely the only country to practice and promote eugenics, and for all that Canada may have a (wrongful, misinformed) reputation as a fluffy, happy human rights paradise, many Canadians believed that eugenics was a Totes Valid strategy to make our country a better place. Take, as example, this quote from the Eugenics Society of Canada:
The Eugenics Society of Canada was created, promoting eugenism in claiming that “developments in Nazi Germany as worthy of emulation” and that ”Canada, too had to be ‘purified,’ but in its own particular way.” (source)
Neat, huh? My country looked at Nazi Germany and went, ‘Yeah, you know what? We should totally be more like them, guise.”
Anyway, to put all of this in context — because this case reminded me a lot of one of Alberta’s most famous eugenics cases — I’d like to tell you all in brief about Lelani Muir. Lelani was the first person to successfully sue the Alberta government for her wrongful sterilization. (A moment of wild cheering and applause for this total badass.)
Lelani was one of many Albertans deemed mentally unfit in the mid-20th century. (Her sterilization, btw, took place after WWII. Canada had not by any means learned its lesson yet.) She was from a poor family, dreadfully unwanted, so her mother sent her off to a mental institution (which, incidentally, she was told was an orphanage).
And you know what, I apologize for the overuse of Wikipedia in this because I’m not quite awake yet and I only have so much time before I have to get to work, but I’m just going to let Wikipedia tell this part, because if I try to write it myself I’m going to get way angrier than I can afford just before going to work:
Muir had lived at the Provincial Training School for two years and four months before she underwent an intelligence quotient (IQ) test. Low IQ was a major criterion for sterilization. She was brought to the Calgary Guidance Clinic to take an IQ test a week before meeting with the Eugenics Board and scored an overall mark of 64.Muir was formally diagnosed as a “Mental defective Moron”. The Board used Muir’s IQ score as sufficient grounds for her sterilization, as a score lower than 70 was considered degraded intelligence. Although she was not told at the time, the Board ordered that she be sterilized. Other factors that increased the likelihood of sterilization were Muir’s Irish-Polish background and Catholic religion, her presumed incapability of intelligent parenting, and that she had “shown definite interest in the opposite sex” while living in a public institution.
On January 19, 1959, doctors performed a bilateral salpingectomy (destruction of the fallopian tubes) on Muir.She had been told that the surgery was to remove her appendix. She would not find out until nearly a decade later why she could not bear children.
Okay so. In summary. 1) She hadn’t been warned beforehand by her mother that she was being sent to a mental institution. 2) The decision to sterilize a 14-year-old girl was made on the basis of an IQ test. IQ tests systematically disfavour kids from poor families. IQ tests are not a comprehensive measure of intelligence. IQ tests are fallible. 3) Lelani’s pedigree just wasn’t good enough to warrant her reproducing, guys! We don’t want those people in our gene pool, amirite? 4) The fact that she was interested in sex (hetero sex!) encouraged them to take out her fucking fallopian tubes because we can’t possibly have women having sex if they might enjoy it.
And, most crucially, they never fucking told her what they were doing to her. Lelani didn’t even get to find out after the surgery what had been done to her. For years, she had no idea she had been sterilized. Do you want to know when she did find out what they’d done to her?
When she was married. And trying to have kids.
And — here’s the icing on the cake — Lelani wasn’t even allowed to adopt because she was a formal mental patient! Reminder: this girl was 10 years old when she was institutionalized. The criteria under which she was institutionalized and sterilized had far more to do with classism, ethnic discrimination, sexism, and Puritanical morality than they had to do with her capabilities or character. She was 14 when they destroyed her fallopian tubes, without her knowledge or consent. The only people who failed in Lelani’s early life were the adults who were supposed to look after her.
And, fun fact, when Lelani took an IQ test again in the late 80s, she scored 89. Which either means a) she miraculously gained more innate intelligence over the course of a couple decades or, b) IQ tests are fucking fallible and biased against people who are socially discriminated against. Ie. The grounds under which Lelani was forcibly sterilized were totally fucking farcical.
Anyway, long story short, Lelani successfully sued the Albertan government for just shy of $1M in 1996, and she’s done a pretty incredible job of speaking out about what was done to her and generally being a total Albertan badass and credit to Canadian society. (And one that, frankly, we don’t deserve, given what Canadian society did to her.) If you want to know more about Lelani, I found out about her through The Sterilization of Leilani Muir, a documentary about her case. It’s been a few years since I watched it, but if I recall correctly, it’s heartbreaking as fuck, and absolutely worth watching.
And that’s why this case terrifies me. I thought we were past that. I thought we’d finally fucking learned from our mistakes. The Sexual Sterilization Act in Alberta was repealed in 1972. I thought we were done with this. But when I read that story, all I could fucking think about was eugenics, because that’s what this is. This is an external authority making life-shattering decisions about those ‘unfit’ to parent based on stigma and fear and a dreadful lack of facts.
People with mental illness are perfectly capable of raising children. I know this for a fact, because I was raised by one. You want to check out her credentials? I have two First Class Honours degrees. I’ve won writing awards. I have a large and diverse group of friends who love the shit out of me. I am articulate as fuck, compassionate, and strong, and a lot of that comes from having grown up with a mentally ill parent, because I had to master language in order to articulate the often bewildering experiences that entailed, because seeing all the stigma my mother and her peers faced every day taught me that compassion is essential to responsible moral life, because sometimes, when my mum was sicker than usual, I had to be the strong one, I had to support her just like she always supported me. It wasn’t always easy, but no one’s childhood is, and I wouldn’t trade what I had for the world. My mother is one of the most capable, extraordinary parents I know, and she’s far outshone the parents of many of my friends, who have gone to her for comfort and guidance and love when their own families fell short.
So please. Talk about this. Be outraged. Spread the word. Make them afraid. Do not let the people who would rule the lives of others based on their own fear and undereducation and lack of compassion succeed. Speak out. Eugenics was a bad idea from the start. Don’t let them think they can get away with a regression of politics and morality this radical, this destructive.
I dearly hope this woman gets her child back. And I hope the people who took her away rot.