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The precise moment last summer when an Italian nationalst visiting England became a mother for the third time was the same moment her infant child disappeared from her womb.

The unnamed woman had been in Britain attending an airline training course at Stansted Airport in Essex when the strange string of events began to unfold; the woman, unable to the passports belonging to her children experienced a panic attack. The police were summoned (the police? Really?!), who then contacted the young woman’s mother back in Italy. The woman’s mother detailed her assumption that her daughter, who had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was currently under a doctor’s care, surmised that she may not have been taking her prescription. The police claiming that her unborn baby might be in danger, escorted her to the mental hospital, where she was restrained by orderlies and held against her will sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Take a deep breath; things are about to go from bad to (Holy-Christ-I-can’t-believe-this-shit) WORSE.

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photo by: Emily Koch
Five weeks pass. The heroine of our story is the continued victim of recycled air, bad hospital food, and all the basket weaving she can work her fingers around (okay… that last part can’t be confirmed, but, HELLO… ART THERAPY?) She wakes, dons her bright one-size-fits-all slipper socks with non-slip bottoms and wanders, bored to find her breakfast. What? No breakfast? Something must be amiss. In Sylvia Plath World, no breakfast is a sure sign of impending electro-shock therapy. When the woman began to inquire of the nursing staff who made it clear that she would not be given breakfast that morning, she protested, resulting in her being strapped down and forcibly sedated. 

She awoke several hours later, unsure of her surroundings, with an empty womb and empty arms.

Prior to this day, Essex social services requested and obtained a behind the scenes High Court order from judge Mr Justice Mostyn against the woman, that permitting a non-emergency cesarean to seize the woman’s unborn child from the womb and place it in protective care, eschewing her family’s peas asking the court to allow them temporary custody of the infant. The mother was kept completely in the dark as to the court proceedings that resulted in her newborn being medically ripped from her uterus, and was not allowed to see her baby, a daughter, after her surgical extraction.

Even the Italian woman wasn’t suffering from a pre-existing mental health condition, she’d be bat-shit crazy after waking up to what can only be described as the worst morning ever. I do believe those working with victims abuse would label social services’ tactics as “crazymaking.”

It wasn’t until October when, represented by a court-appointed solicitor, she was allowed the opportunity to plead her case in a hearing before another judge. The judge ordered that she be deported back to Italy while her baby was to remain in England in the continued care of social services.

The legal battle that followed entailed necessitated the retention of lawyers from three different countries. The High Court in Rome expressed outrage the situation and the mother’s legal team petitioned the courts for a change in jurisdiction that would allow her to fight for custody of her daughter in Italy, the country in which she resides, the judge ruled that because her protest regarding jurisdiction was after the fact, her lack of  prior protest indicated her acceptance of the British courts jurisdiction, completely disregarding her inability to participate in early proceedings, having been deemed to have no capacity to understand what was happening to her because of her mental state.

Chelmsford ruled in February of 2013 to place the baby for adoption, even after noting improvements of the mother’s overall mental health, quoted by Christopher Booker,  of The Sunday Telegraph as saying “she seemed impressively articulate and a different person from the one he had seen earlier.” 

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The tragic string of events continues.

Last March, her American husband, with whom she was amicably separated, requested of the courts that custody of the child be given to his sister living in Los Angles, recognizing that the court’s preference was to place children within their own families whenever possible would indicate that this was a no-brainer. In spite of the clear laws regarding the priority placement with family, the judge refused the request, citing that the mother’s sister-in-law was not blood related.

Does it then follow that if British courts only recognize families created the old fashioned way are valid, and children raised by step-parents, by parents of same-sex partnerships,  grandparents, or adoptive parents live in families that are less real and not to be accepted?

Mental Capacity Act of 2005 (MCA),  the act that prohibited the soon-to-be mother from being involved in her own defense, was implemented in England and Wales in 2007 to establish a structure for gauging the litigants understanding of potential legal requirements and consequences, ability to reason and the ability to communicate.

The MCA was adopted to assess those with learning disabilities, not mentally ill individuals. Rules governing the statute dictate that all decisions made on behalf of those regarded as incompetent by the act be made in the best interest of the adult in question. The statute further qualifies that the “least restrictive options be chosen during interventions of the incapacitated adults.”

While in no way will I ever advocate for children to be left in homes that are in any way physically or emotionally abusive, neglectful, or in which children are subject to sexual violence, I must point out that the court ruling that took this woman’s unborn daughter from her body based on her incompetence via the MCA statute disregarded entirely the focus of the ruling… to protect the adult in question. At no time was this mother allowed to enter into the assessment processes and speak in defense of her own competency.  The decision was not made in her best interest, but in that of the child. The least restrictive option, allowing the mother to have adequate legal representation, the ability to birth according to her body’s natural rhythms, and to go back to Italy where she would receive follow up care by her own doctor and the help of her already-involved family was never put into place.

I call shenanigans on the whole situation.

Women who face the challenges of mental illnesses are not reproductively irrelevant. Negative attitudes and stereotypes regarding sexuality in mentally ill women both hinder reproductive rights and create a façade well-intentioned judgments, disempowering women by crippling them with ill-informed opinions and assumptions. At its best, the MCA reaffirms the legal status of the doctrine of informed consent, empowering women with legal backbone to chose their reproductive path, but, as clearly illustrated by this tragic tale, can be a sword that cuts two ways. And its bullshit. When has the unregulated use of a male’s penis created any level of controversy? I think the true question behind the veil is this:

If the British High Court system sees fit to force a cesarean on a mentally ill woman and take away her child, drugging her and robbing her of the opportunity to be coherent during the birth of her newborn, an experience that parents refer to as one of their life’s most profound, speaking in boundless superlatives (and rightfully so) and expose her to a higher likelihood of postpartum depression, increasing her mental instability, assuming that the courts were entirely, without question, in the right in their decision,

Why the fuck hasn't the man who victimized and impregnated this woman been prosecuted for sexual exploitation of a vulnerable adult?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.




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