Tuesday, May 23, 2006

That'll help

On Saturday a 20 year old international student was admitted to hospital with internal bleeding after giving birth. She did not have a baby with her. The hospital alerted the police, and the police found a dead baby.

This afternoon she was charged with manslaughter, by failing to provide the necessaties of life.

OK I can't even respond to that fact with any kind of coherence. Charging that woman with manslaughter is just about the stupidest and least helpful thing anyone could do in that situation.

For more background read these posts on Interesting Times


  1. Are you aware of the details of her actions which have led to the charges?

  2. I'm surprised they chose manslaughter when infanticide is the more obvious charge.

    Infanticide provides a limited defence of diminished responsibility where a woman kills any child of hers under the age of 10 years and the offence would otherwise be culpable homicide.

    For the defence to operate, the balance of the woman's mind must be disturbed by the birth of that or another child to such an extent that she should not be held fully responsible. The balance of her mind may be affected by not having recovered from giving birth, by the effect of lactation, or by reason of any disorder consequent on birth or lactation.

    There's reasons for and against this being a special provision (as opposed to recognising post-natal depression and psychosis as simple insanity defences), but it's been on the books for a long time.
    Fortunately lawmakers are sensible enough not to lump situations like this in with "cold blooded murder".

    The Herald's 100 years ago column recently reported a woman being jailed for attempted suicide. I wonder if in 100 years time we will look at the way we responded to these cases and see them as similarly heartless.

  3. Dean, I don't think it was particularly 'cold blooded'. It's an incredibly bad situation for all involved, but particularly for the young mother. I dont' think that Manslaughter is an appropriate charge, Infanticide is far more appropriate. I agree with Maia that charges won't help, but the Police are required to charge her, because she has committed a crime. It is now up to a jury or a judge to decide whether the circumstances mitigate any kind of punishment. I think she would have been punished enough. That type of thing would fuck you up something chronic

  4. Here's the thing that bothers me about these crimes. If a women commits them, then she is obviously has a 'disturbed state of mind.' However if a father did it he's automatically be a cold blooded murderer who needs to rot in jail.

    It seems to me that if we are struggling for equality it's the same treatment for both genders whether we throw them in jail or make them head for counselling.

  5. Yeah, that's the tricky thing - how to provide some sort of recognition for women in rotten situations at the same time as giving them the same legal standing and responsibility as men.

    Men and women can both be in denial about impending parenthood, and fail to cope with the challenge. But there are a few simple biological differences as to what you can do about it if you are. Men can abandon the mother of their child, with no serious threat to anyone's survival. For a woman to abandon her child, unless she arranges someone else to help out, there's a high probability that the child won't survive. The intention's the same; the impact's different. Only the latter is punishable by law.

  6. I don't know a great deal about the details of this case, but I think it would be perilous to treat men and women exactly the same when something like this happens. For example, we have to take into account that a woman who has just given birth may be suffering from post-natal psychosis, which is a very serious mental condition. A woman suffering from this is not capable of committing "cold-blooded" murder - cold blood implies sanity.

  7. Actually Sophia it's more our reactions to it. There's still this disbeilief that women can be capable of harming children, ergo she must have a disorder. Whereas with men, he's automatically a cold blooded killer even though he may have pyshcatric problems himself.

    Just interesting how ingrained gender roles are in everyone.

  8. But Sofiya raises a very interesting and pertinent point. Women giving birth are often loaded with a number of hormones that have a very strong influence on behaviour. Couple this with pre-existing conditions (in this case most likely severe anxiety and depression) and she was bound to snap. I just don't think locking her up will help anyone in this case.

  9. Stef I agree with Xavier and Sofiya - the point is that no man is ever in the situation of just having given birth.

    Forget locking her up, just charging her is only going to make things worse.

  10. Dean I already asked you not to comment on my blog. I missed deleting one of your posts. That doesn't make you any less unwelcome

  11. Why do you delete Dean's posts. He seems to be polite, he just disagrees with you. Why are you afraid of opinions that differ from your own.

  12. When the opinions that differ from one's own include misogynist bullshit, one is fucking well entitled to delete them on ONE'S OWN BLOG. Jesus H.

  13. There are plenty of women that have mental conditions and are able to give birth without putting their babies in garbage bags.

    She had other options. She could have an abortion, she could have an adoption. She stuck her baby in a garbage bag. That is a crime and she should go before court to decide her fate, just as a man would in the same situation.

    Equal rights for women, mean we must face equal punishment when we break the law.