Refused a c-section? NJ Division of Youth and Family Services thinks you’re guilty of child neglect

Ah, land of the free, home of the brave.

The land where you can’t do drugs, can’t drink on the beach, can’t jaywalk, can’t smoke in certain areas, can’t post signs critical of government on your own yard, could face up to life in prison for dealing marijuana, where more people are incarcerated (proportionally) than anywhere else in the world, where you can’t sell ziplock bags of a particular size (lest the police raid your store, destroy your merchandise and loot your cash register), where miscarriage can be a crime, where you can be tasered for refusing to take a bath, where you can be arrested for doing absolutely nothing, and now – where refusing to consent to a c-section before giving birth can raise suspicions of child neglect.

The land of the “free” is eerily starting to sound more like a bizarre police state, 1984-style.

The issue of whether refusal of a C-section can be considered medical neglect of a child recently was entertained by courts in New Jersey. Upon going into labor and being admitted to the hospital, “Ms. M” signed various consents for treatment at the hospital, but did not consent preemptively to a C-section.  She was told of the full risks and benefits of a c-section, and refused the procedure.  She was even evaluated by a psychiatrist regarding her ability to give informed consent, due to her past history of anxiety, depression and other issues, and was found to have the capacity to give informed consent. She delivered her child vaginally and safely. However, the hospital staff for various reasons referred her to family services.  One of these reasons was because of her decision not to preauthorize consent to c-section during labor.  Her child was taken away from her shortly after birth.

The child was taken away for a variety of reasons aside from the c-section issue. Fortunately, the courts decided medical neglect of a child was a concept that did not apply to a woman and her fetus, and that refusal of a c-section could not be considered child neglect (full story here).

The National Association for Pregnant Women (NAPW) apparently acknowledged this as a “victory.” Presumably, feminists everywhere are considering this a win.  However, the fact that this even was an issue for the courts is preposterous and deeply offensive to liberty, privacy and human dignity. Child birth is a medical and private matter. That a judge is the final say on whether a woman’s consent (or lack thereof) to a serious surgical procedure can be used against her as evidence of child neglect is disgusting and embarrassing in a purported “free” society.

That in a “free” society, some bureaucrat with no medical training, no surgical background, and an insufficient knowledge of obstetrics, can decide whether a woman must consent to a surgical procedure under the threat her child could be taken away is utterly insane.  Feminists everywhere should not be celebrating a victory; we should be infuriated that such issues are even in the realm of government at all.

Over the protests of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, which argued that not consenting to a c-section is a factor which should be considered in assessing child neglect, the court reaffirmed that women have full discretion and control over their bodies during pregnancy and reiterated the right of privacy and the right to make medical decisions.  The court further stated the term “child” or “children” does not extend to fetuses and the child neglect law cannot be applied in cases such as Ms. M’s.

Even so, it is incredibly disturbing to know that government entities are out there arguing  medical decisions made during pregnancy should be scrutinized for child neglect. The court may have ruled this time that the law does not apply to fetuses, but what about other medical decisions made after birth of a child?

If New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services could have its way, children could be taken away because their mother made various surgical or medical decisions that caused her to be unable to breast feed, or required prolonged hospital stays or medical treatments which deprived her children of attention.

The necessary logical conclusion would be that cancer patients, others with substantial medical problems, or anyone else who, as a result of receiving certain medical treatment or hospitalizations, has afforded less than optimal attention or care to their children can be suspected of “neglect” or “endangerment.”

How did we come to a point where the state, through courts, law, politics, and with the help of law enforcement, has to have its overreaching, filthy, meddling hands even in medicine?

It is a twisted world indeed when the government has a virtual blank check to enact all kinds of oppressive laws and regulations with relatively little accountability, all on the taxpayer’s bill, while the citizen is scrutinized to death for making basic and private medical decisions.


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Georgia Sand

Georgia (George) Sand is an attorney located in sunny California. She enjoys beer, jogging, the beach, music, and chatting with her cats in her spare time.