by Alex DiBranco August 13, 2010
V.M. has been separated from her baby for three years in the name of “child welfare.” All because she didn’t want to pre-authorize a cesarean section that neither she nor the hospital had any reason to believe would be medically necessary, and wasn’t.
RH Reality Check reports that when V.M. showed up at the hospital planning to give birth vaginally, she was asked to sign a pre-consent form permitting a c-section should it become necessary. She refused. Had there been an unexpected complication with the pregnancy, V.M. could have consented to the procedure at that time, but she didn’t want to sign away her ability to make decisions about whether or not her baby would be sliced out of her belly. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
The hospital, however, disagreed. After giving birth, without complications, V.M.’s newborn was taken away from her on charges of endangering child welfare. She and her husband have been fighting for three years now to get their child back.
There are a number of problems with this decision by the hospital, starting with the fact that the only welfare endangerment you could allege at the time of V.M’s refusal was that of the fetus, since there was not yet any child. Secondly, many hospitals are trigger-happy when it comes to this surgery — this New Jersey hospital had a 50% c-section rate — which can be due to financial considerations or simple bias toward the procedure, although a c-section can have its own complications and pose issues for future pregnancies. Thirdly, there is controversy surrounding whether hospitals should even be allowed to ask for “pre-consent” from pregnant women with no signs of needing the procedure.
And finally, when it comes to cutting a woman’s body open, her decision to wait and see, thank you very much, is fully within her choice. If she doesn’t want to be slashed across her belly willy-nilly, that’s her right. It is not the equivalent of child abuse.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women staff attorney Farah Diaz-Tello argued, “Once the door is open you can have field day with every aspect of a woman’s life.” Fortunately, the courts have now agreed that the child abuse/neglect statutes do not apply to fetuses, and in a previous warning, refusing a c-section specifically was found to not constitute endangering a child’s welfare.
V.M. and her husband are still separated from their child. Now they have to head back to the lower courts (if there’s no appeal) to now only fight the hospital’s claim that V.M. was acting irrational, hostile, and yelling — well, you would too if someone told you they were taking away your baby because you refused to pre-authorize an unnecessary c-section. Actually, that sounds pretty rational to me.