• nycprochoicemd

    Thanks for your excellent analysis of this case.  It’s shocking and tragic that this family has been through so much for no good reason.  It’s amazing that in this most benign of cases (a healthy live birth with no need for surgical intervention AND a psychiatric consult revealing her capacity to make decisions for herself) an overzealous Department of Youth & Family Services was able to remove a child from custody for this long.


    I would also go so far as to say that even if a c-section had been medically indicated according to any physician, and even if there were a fetal demise resulting from not performing a c-section, that a woman has a right to her body and to do with it as she desires (as long as she is found competent).  The real test for our right to control our bodies will come when the lines are harder to draw.

  • amie-newman

    Your comment is so insightful and I appreciate the links you make. Whether one talks about autonomy over one’s body regarding abortion, pregnancy or birth – it’s critical that we understand and advocate for a woman’s right to autonomy over her body.

    Thank you!

  • snrkyfeminist

    I wrote about this court case in a biomedical ethics class in my last year of law school.  In my research on the ability of women to refuse medical treatment during pregnancy, I discovered a few gems: one is a study on the correlation between the financial incentives for a hospital to perform cesareans over vaginal births (http://bit.ly/a4KQ35), and another discusses how physicians and health attorneys are more likely to attempt to override a laboring woman’s refusal of a medically indicated cesarean based on external factors: the woman’s profession, whether her husband agrees with her decision, whether the fetus has downs syndrome, etc.  (http://www.whijournal.com/article/S1049-3867%2806%2900136-8/abstract). This second study was based off of a previous study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1987 that surveyed women forced to undergo cesareans by court order, finding that of those women 81% were minorities, and 24% did not speak English as their first language.

    These studies clearly show that the medical decisions of pregnant women are being overridden based on non-medical standards.  Doctors, lawyers, and judges are scrutinizing whether a competent pregant woman fits a rigid standard, determined by them, for refusing medical treatment–something that does not occur for any other competent adult patient.  Not only that, but physicians are imposing their personal beliefs on pregnant women–the study on obstetricians and attorneys also found that those who are self-identified as “conservatives,” “Republicans,” and “pro-life” are much more likely to attempt to override  a woman’s refusal of a cesarean in court. 


    Women are facing a hostile birthing environment, to say the least.  The paternalism that rages through the obstetrics industry is not only harmful to women, it violates tenets of general patient autonomy. 

  • melgarvey

    That is a scary case. Thanks for your detailed report.

  • ack

    I want to have kids some day. Reading articles like this just reinforces my belief about having upfront conversations with my OB/GYN as well as the hospital about their policies on childbirth. I think that having a doctor shove a bunch of consent forms in your face when you’re having contractions is ridiculous. I’m terrified of going into labor and not being able to choose the hospital… and I’m enormously privileged to have access to several that take my insurance in the urban area I live in. For now.


    I have a lot of issues with CPS policies, and this very clearly demonstrates why careful monitoring and public access to information is vital. In many states, they are virtually immune to investigation. Some of their written and unwritten policies are more about holier-than-thou assholishness than about protecting children.

  • mersiepoodle

    Though they’d love to criminalize that too, probably. I refuse to have any prenatal care or brain damaging ultrasound, I guess I’m going to be accused of being a criminal too. Jeez. Just because she was on antidepressants doesn’t mean she’s totally insane. Giving birth unprepared in a hospital setting is not comfortable, they just were mad because she didn’t roll over and let them do whatever intervention they wanted. Never mind that the USA is one of the WORST countries in regards to maternal and infant death rates.

  • randy-raptor

    NJ has severely abused and hurt this family.  Maybe a jury will assign punitive damages appropriate to discouraging such mindless arrogance in the future.

  • cnm3789

    For your best chance of having a physiologic labor and birth, why not consider getting your future maternity care from a midwife?  OB/GYNs are great for what they do best, which is surgery and care in high-risk situations, but midwives are the experts in care for normal pregnancy and birth.  Many certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives provide well woman health care so you needn’t wait until you’re pregnant to find one.  I encourage you to investigate this option in your area.  Try the Find a Midwife function at http://www.midwife.org. and best wishes!

  • ack

    Midwifery is something I’ve considered, as well as having a doula. I will definitely utilize additional support beyond the sterility of an OB/GYN, and will likely explore alternative birth options. I’m excited to have kids when we decide we’re ready, and I’m privileged to currently live in an area where I would have those options; I hope that when I’m ready we will have choices available. Thank you for the website!


    And my mom rocks, so she’ll be there so I can break a finger or two. ;)

  • julie-watkins

    I have to share this on facebook. There are 1185 who have already shared! I can see why. Horrible!

  • prowomen

    This couple should sue them for taking their baby.  This whole episode is unimaginable.  I can’t imagine any mother who wouldn’t be ranting and raving at such an outrage.  They illegally took her baby and denied it the loving care of its parents.  Apparently it was, also, denied the healthful benefits of being nursed.  Since C-sections are far more debilitating and life-threatening and it’s her ultimate decision, this hospital was totally wrong.

    Some judges are overstepping their legal authority by interfering with a woman’s right to informed consent, which is described by the American Medical Association as “a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention.” “The main purpose of the informed consent process is to protect the patient….a capable adult cannot be forced to take any type of medical treatment.”  (American Cancer Society)   

    In 2004, a hospital obtained a court order to force a woman to have a C-section because her seventh baby was oversized, but the order was too late. The mother, whose first six children each weighed nearly 12 pounds at birth, went to another hospital and delivered an 11-pound, 9-ounce girl naturally.

    Another pregnant woman didn’t feel she was receiving the care needed and, instead of being allowed to leave or go to another hospital, was ordered by a judge to remain and “submit to all medical care” whether she agreed with it or not.  She appealed the judge’s order in hopes of keeping her case from setting a precedent for legal control over women with problem pregnancies.  

    Pregnant women are not wards of the state.  Their constitutional rights are repeatedly being denied.  It may be time for women to start marching in the streets for the right to make their own informed medical decisions without interference from judges, politicians or religious zealots.
  • queenyasmeen

    You’ve all said it far better and more thoroughly than I could, but I just wanted to recommend that you see The Business Of Being Born, if you haven’t yet.  I saw it very recently and having the film as context for this chilling article was pretty helpful.  It’s available to view instantly on Netflix and of course it’s on DVD. 


    This family definitely deserves some form of reparation for what happened to them, although nothing will make up for their loss of the first three years of their daughter’s life, her lost chance to bond with her rightful parents as an infant, and probably the pain of a foster family that may have cared for her and bonded with her and then had to surrender her.  This whole incident is so frightening, and as demonstrated by the commenter before me, not an isolated incident.  Too many people on the street treat pregnant women as if they’re public domain — feeling the belly, nasty looks if they don’t approve of a pregnant woman’s behavior they’re witnessing or think they’re witnessing, unwelcome and intrusive comments that no sane person would thrust upon a stranger in any other situation, and so forth.  Now we’ve got bodies of authority, the medical establishment and Child Protective Services, shoving their way into pregnant women’s bodies and lives.  Disgusting.

  • aussiegirl

    Seriously, is it willfull ignorance you either didn’t bother to check your facts, or are you deliberately trying to mislead people. Other?  Really what is your excuse?

    This  case has *nothing* to do with c-sections and everything to do with serious mental illness and genuine concerns about the welfare of the child, which you would know if you bothered to read the court documents.  It’s all documented there in every painful detail.  It’s a very sad story but has nothing to do with c-sections.

    Read the decision which is posted on this site.  The site says the complete opposite of the actual court documents they posted.



    pg 60 of court decision.

    //Although there was evidence presented at the guardianship
    trial regarding V.M.’s refusal to consent to a c-section, the
    judge did not rely on that evidence in finding that DYFS had
    established prong one. In contrast to the Title 9 trial, V.M.’s
    failure to consent to a c-section did not form a major portion
    of the evidence presented in the guardianship trial, nor was it
    a “major consideration” in the court’s decision. V.M., supra,
    408 N.J. Super. at 249. Moreover, despite the Title 9 court’s
    reliance on V.M.’s conduct in refusing the procedure, on appeal
    the majority determined that it need not address this issue
    because there was sufficient other evidence to support the trial
    court’s finding of abuse and neglect as to V.M. Id. at 224. We
    need not address this issue here except to note that to the
    extent the judge considered the issue, it has no place in this
    termination proceeding. //

    Read the entire document and make an *informed* opinion.

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