So here we go. A woman in New Jersey refused an unnecessary cesarean section during labor, and proceeded to deliver a perfectly healthy baby vaginally. So we should all be happy, right? Wrong. You see, this woman committed the cardinal sins of questioning medical professionals, to their faces, no less, and not being a docile, easily-controlled, passive "patient." And nobody can commit these sins without paying for it. No sooner had she delivered her healthy baby than child protective services was called and yanked her child from her, terminating her parental rights due to the abuse she had inflicted on the
But there's more to this story than just the refusal of a c-section, which is after all major surgery and carries huge risks for mother and child, and which is one of the most overused surgeries in western medicine, contributing to the shameful fact that the U.S. has the second highest infant mortality rate in the developed world. For real, we have a 31.8% c-section rate, while the WHO recommends at most a 15% rate. But if you read the court ruling from the appeals court, you'll find that refusing a c-section was rejected by the appeals court as the reason justifying removal of the child and termination of parental rights. This is significant, because it would result in a legal precedent for routinely taking children from mothers who refused c-sections in the future. And that's something you oughta know (and no doubt the medical industry would love it if this were the precedent, and all parents knew it) when writing up your birth plan. Instead, the court upheld the termination of parental rights on the grounds that the mother had a history of mental illness, behaved in a less-than-calm manner during labor (shocking!), and had the gall to abstain from informing the doctor of her history of mental illness. Get that? She didn't inform the doctor of her history of mental illness.
Now why would somebody do something like that? Hmmm. Perhaps because we have a tendency to take children from women who have a history of mental illness? Perhaps because "a history of mental illness," no matter what the specific issue was, is universally thought to render one a bad mother in our culture? It seems to me that hiding your history of mental illness is a profoundly rational thing to do, if being a mother is important to you.
I have a friend who lost a baby to SIDS. It was tragic and sudden and inexplicable - a complete nightmare. She was heartbroken to the point that she could barely go on. She would drag herself out of bed just long enough to care for her older child and get him off to school, then return to bed until he came home. After several months of this, her friends and family encouraged her to seek treatment. Immediately upon seeing a therapist she was diagnosed with clinical depression and medicated. Like after the first visit. About a year later she stopped taking the medication, and everything seemed to be fine. However, two years later during her divorce, her "history of mental illness" came back and was used as evidence against her in the custody battle. And she could protest that she had merely been heartbroken over the death of her son (which hardly seems pathological to me) until she was blue in the face, but according to the court, she had a history of mental illness, which compromised her ability to mother her child.
So don't tell me that mental health diagnoses and treatments, which are disproportionately applied to women, aren't used as a means of regulating women in our culture and "encouraging" them to walk the line of appropriately gendered behavior. Don't tell me that the patriarchal approach of western medicine doesn't seek to control women in childbirth and render them docile and passive revenue streams by which doctors can maximize their profits (c-sections are lucrative) and minimize their work time (c-sections are quick). Don't roll your eyes at me when I question the claims of the medical industry and refuse to drink the coolaid of their PR and lobbying and social bullying. If this case doesn't shake your faith in "the system" then what will?