Child Maltreatment and Pregnancy.

Child Maltreatment and Pregnancy.

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The events of the last few days have got me thinking about a few issues. I know that some people will jump on this and have a go, and that’s fine, but I am genuinely interested in discussion about this issue. Having had a life threatening pregnancy and delivery, I obviously do not believe in the power of the human body in all cases. I also believe in the power of the human mind to come up with technology that saves people. So, that said, I ask this in all seriousness:

Is a person that refuses prenatal care and has an unassisted homebirth negligent? I am not talking about people who have homebirths with a midwife, and not talking about those who have a homebirth with some degree of prenatal care. I am talking about the person who firmly believes that ANY medicalisation of childbirth is horrible, and that they can avoid complications by eating right, sleeping and talking to their baby.

Obviously this is not the case, with 5–8% of women developing preeclampsia (most prevalent in first time pregnancies and the leading cause of maternal death and premature babies), another 2–5% gestational diabetes, 10–15% anaemia, as well as the gamete of other potential complications (such as being RH -ve and requiring anti-D) that can risk the life of the baby. Avoiding prenatal care means that these conditions will not be picked up on by routine screening.

In WA (and I assume other states as well), denying a child medical care does constitute child maltreatment and the child can be apprehended. The parent can also be charged.

I put this as a valid question about the rights of the individual woman to make choices about the kind of birth she would like, but also the state’s obligation to protect the interests of the child. What if a child is born seriously ill or dies as a result of a mother’s conscious lack of prenatal care?

A woman would be charged with aborting a foetus after 23 weeks without a compelling medical case — so why does someone who risks the life of themselves and their baby any different? Especially a first time mother, who, for all intents and purposes, has no idea whether she will have complications or not.

Of course, it is not to say that all pregnancies will go wrong, but by the same token, medical intervention has saved the lives of millions of mothers and babies (myself and my children included). We also cannot compel citizens to undergo medical procedures — and being a feminist I firmly believe that a woman’s body is her own. But at what point do the rights of the child come into play?

Anyway, just some food for thought. Please keep it nice.

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