Sunday, August 08, 2010

NJ couple gets kid back

A year ago, this made news:
A New Jersey woman, known only as V. M. in court papers, refused to consent to a cesarean section on April 16, 2006 and gave birth the same day to a child, known only as J. M. G in court documents, by normal vaginal delivery. Even though the child was delivered safely and had no problems due to the birth, Child Protective Services, known in New Jersey as the Division of Youth and Family Services, took baby J. M. G. because the mother had refused a cesarean section.

On July 16, 2009, the appellate division of the New Jersey Superior Court agreed with DYFS and a lower court's decision that Ms. V. M. had neglected and abused her child and the DYFS was correct in taking custody and terminating Ms. V. M.'s parental rights. In the appellate court's decision, the judges said that refusal of a cesarean section alone was not enough to constitute child neglect or abuse, but they based their decision on other factors, including the woman's behavior in the four days following the child's birth and the state of the mother's mental health. V. M. had been under the care of a psychiatrist for twelve years.
They could not take the child away for refusing the cesarian, because there is no law against a woman harming her own unborn baby before birth. So they had to phrase their reasons as based on what happened after birth. So their excuse was a bunch of vague and subjective charges, such as

In the hospital records, V.M. is described as "combative," "uncooperative," "erratic," "noncompliant," "irrational" and "inappropriate."
Even more outrageously, the baby was taken away from the father as well. There was no serious complaint against him.

Now the NJ appeals court has reversed itself, and decided to let the parents have their child. The pdf opinion is here, and the link is on Unpublished Appellate Opinions for 8/6/2010. There is some more info on the National Advocates for Pregnant Women blog.

I am glad the appeals court finally had some sense. This seemed like a case where evil govt and hospital workers were retaliating at a mom for not following medical advice. It was an abuse of power. CPS should be concerned with rescuing kids who are suffering serious harm, not punishing parents who make a harmless decision that happened to be contrary to advice.

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