Yes, I realize that headline sounds absolutely insane and like a total impossibility, but it’s 100% true. As reported by The Telegraph, “A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.” The woman, who cannot be named in the press for legal reasons, is an Italian citizen who was in Britain during the summer of 2012 for job training with an airline. While at her hotel, she suffered a panic attack because she couldn’t find two passports belonging to her daughters at home in Italy and called the police, who told her they were taking her to a hospital to make sure her baby was okay. Instead, police took her to a psychiatric facility, where her rights and freedoms were stripped from her in an unbelievably egregious way.
According to The Telegraph, “She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.” The woman remained in the psychiatric hospital for five weeks, and one day was suddenly told she wouldn’t be given breakfast. “She was strapped down and forcibly sedated, and when she woke up hours later, found she was in a different hospital and that her baby had been removed by caesarean section while she was unconscious and taken into care by social workers,” Christopher Booker reported in his Telegraph column, which prompted the paper to subsequently publish the story in their news section. The woman “was not allowed to see her baby daughter, and later learnt that a High Court judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, had given the social workers permission to arrange for the child to be delivered.”
A friend of mine described this story as a “dystopian nightmare,” and human rights workers in the UK have called it “dystopian science fiction.” Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, has said: “Please God there’s more to this, but at first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency.” So far, unfortunately, those responsible have had no problem getting the courts to side with their decision. The Telegraph reports, “In October (of 2012), at a hearing before another judge, (the mother) was represented by lawyers assigned to her by the local authority and told she would be escorted back to Italy without her baby.”
When the mother arrived back in Italy, she resumed taking medication for what has been described as a “bi-polar” condition by the woman’s mother, and when she appeared in a British court in February of this year, “the judge … admitted that, since resuming her medication, she seemed impressively articulate and a different person from the one he had seen earlier. But, because he could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future, he ruled that the child must be placed for adoption,” Booker writes.
Facing adoption as the only possibility, the mother’s ex-husband, with whom she is amicably split, requested that the baby, who is now 15 months old, be placed with his sister in Los Angeles. “British law is clear that wherever possible children should be adopted by members of their wider family. But in March, Essex social services ruled that this was unacceptable because, even though she was the aunt of the baby’s stepsister, the American woman had no “blood” tie to the baby,” Booker notes.
The child remains in the care of social services, and the mother “has now, in a final attempt to get the British court’s ruling reversed, called in Brendan Fleming, the most formidable of the few British solicitors prepared to fight for parents whose children have been seized by social workers for seemingly no good reason,” Booker says. John Hemming, a British MP, has vowed to take the woman’s case up in Parliament.
It’s jaw-dropping to think about how many times this mother’s rights have been violated since she was lied to and seized by police in a foreign country that fateful summer day in 2012. It’s also unclear why her rights were violated. If the woman was lucid enough to request to go back to her hotel room, she clearly was not in the throes of some insane psychotic episode. I imagine that the woman only called police to begin with because she thought her daughters’ passports had been stolen, not because she was seeking aid for her panic. This woman’s alleged bi-polar condition has clearly been held against her in a way that is extraordinarily unfair, and the violation of her bodily autonomy by authorities is truly sick. This case will likely rock the British legal and social services systems in a way that will hopefully prevent anything like this from happening ever again. In the meantime, let’s hope this mother is at least allowed visitation rights so that she can bond with her now toddler daughter and they might have a healthy relationship when they’re reunited at last.
Photo credit: Flickr user Pieter van Marion