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Archive for May, 2015

Being a parent is more than mere biology, is a phrase oft-bandied about in the culture wars surrounding same-sex marriage and parenting and it’s an assertion which has more than a grain of truth in it. Tragic cases of abuse and neglect demonstrate that being a biological mother or father does not guarantee immunity from whatever factors drive one to inflict deliberate cruelty upon a child, nor will biology automatically prevent neglect. Neither are adoptive parents an inferior species or lesser parents because they do not have the biological link with their children.

Biology is not what makes a good parent, but neither can its existence be denied, which is what drives most adoptees to want to seek out further information about their birth parents, in a universal human quest to come to terms with identity and heritage. Who am I and where do I come from, are fundamental questions for most of us at some point when searching to find our own individual place in the world.

From a parenting perspective, while the biological imperative is not everything, it should not be ignored or thought to be of little consequence. Both biology and blood ties go a long way to ensuring that a child has a far better chance of thriving thanks to the instinctive bond that exists between parent and child. Even where one parent has a severe psychological impairment which may affect bonding, the importance of particularly mothers and children staying together is thought to be so important, that every effort is made to treat the cause of the ailment while ensuring the child’s safety, in order that a secure parental bond may be established. A condition such as post-natal depression can severely affect bonding between mother and child, meaning that on some occasions the father has to step in and perform much of the maternal role, but nonetheless professionals involved in case-management will not remove the child of an incapacitated mother, preferring to reinforce and extend the existing tie between mum and her baby, providing encouragement and support.

The biological imperative means that every baby has an intuitive need for their mother; within the first hour of birth, the baby is able to distinguish 50 individual markers which single her out. A mother is literally a baby’s world, she has been all they have known for the past 40 weeks, she is known intimately to the baby and the realisation that they are separate entities is estimated to occur at around the nine month mark. If placed upon their mothers chest at birth, a baby will intuitively inch up towards her breast and root around, searching for milk. Standard guidelines in every single maternity unit is that a baby ought to be placed naked skin to naked skin against the mother’s chest as soon as possible after birth.

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Despite 4 cesarians and 5 children this was the first time anyone had actually attempted to put the baby anywhere near me in the moments post birth. Looking at this photograph still evokes an enormous emotional response.

This biological imperative extends beyond the delivery room. While every contact the mother has with the baby consolidates that pre-existing bond and baby’s sense of security, it is also what keeps the mother sane and functioning when the demands of tending to baby stretch her physical and emotional endurance to the limit. It’s biology which helps a woman to exercise self-restraint when her infant has been howling non stop for 24 hours, it’s biology which sees a woman blearily rouse and feed her baby in the early hours of the morning, it’s maternal instinct which is thought to prevent breast-feeding mothers from rolling over and squashing their babies if they choose to co-sleep (though guidelines should be adhered to) and it is maternal instinct which drives a woman to be able to decipher the various cries of her baby. It is maternal instinct, which prevents most women from snapping and doing something terrible to their baby, when their physical and emotional reserves are at their lowest ebb, having to function on minimal or no sleep. It is maternal instinct which rewards a woman when her baby allows her a smile or snuggles in close to her. It is maternal instinct which will reduce a mother to a quivering wreck if she cannot satisfy the insistant increasingly anguished mewls of her newborn. 

There isn’t a single day goes by without yet more proof or research confirming what we already know. Only this week, I came across a piece explaining why mothers literally find the scent of their babies heads addictive, there’s a reason why I am constantly sniffing my newborn’s head. It stimulates the pleasure centres in my brain in a way which releases more dopamine than eating a favourite food, sex, alcohol or drugs!

And the biological imperative is not merely confined to mothers. Another feature this week identified paternal post-natal depression as being widely under-diagnosed and un-treated. One contributing factor is thought to be women who subconsciously act as maternal gate-keepers, not allowing men to co-parent by sharing in the responsibilities of childcare, such as feeding and changing of the nappies. It was admitted that fathers do not enjoy the bio-chemical headstart of mothers and thus the bonding process can take longer.

Without wishing to dismiss the issue of paternal post-natal depression, I suspect the issue has far more to do with modern societal and cultural expectations, than over-zealous women. If a woman breastfeeds her child, there is little a father can do to assist with the process aside from ensuring his partner is comfortable and has enough to drink. While a woman ought to allow the father opportunities to carry out tasks like nappy changing and bathing in order to encourage bonding, both parties need to accept that the baby will have a strong preference for their mother the majority of the time and it’s best just to suck it up, remembering that this phase shall too soon pass. We shouldn’t forget that women have the same mothering and protective instinct towards their offspring as every other mammal. We tend to leave animals just to get on with things with minimal intervention, so if a woman wants to retreat into her cave with her newborn for a few weeks, she ought to be left to get on with it, without the pressure of having to ping instantly back into shape or worry about whether or not she’s doing enough to stave off her husband’s potential post-natal depression. Frankly the man has to accept that while not as directly involved in the hands-on care of the child as the mother, his role in supporting her whether by helping with housework, caring for other children, or doing what he needs to do to keep the pair safe and secure is every bit as vital.

You couldn't stage a better photo, as an example of paternal instinct in action

You couldn’t stage a better photo to capture the essence of fatherhood

Paternal biological imperative obviously fuels the desire to be hands on and involved, but it can also be manifested in other ways and accounts for why surrogacy cases can be quite so messy. Speaking at an event in Tralee last week in advance of the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage last week, John Waters discussed the case of a friend of his, a gay father who agreed to act as a sperm donor to a pair of lesbians. Once the child was born he found it absolutely impossible to stick to his previous agreement and stay out of the life of his child. It was clear that he had not known precisely what it was he had been consenting to, once the child was born, he felt compelled to be involved in their life as a father figure. Eventually a judge agreed and defined the terms on which he was to be allowed regular contact, but sadly the women absconded to a different and faraway country before arrangements could be legally formalised, leaving him bereft and dependent on annual visits.

Similarly in another case this week, a woman lied to her ex partner about having aborted his baby and set up an elaborate surrogacy pretence in order that she could financially profit from giving the child to a gay friend of hers. The woman is now facing imprisonment and the biological father has taken rightful custody of his child, despite the fact that they split up when the woman was three months pregnant. Speaking of the effect of this appalling deception upon this child, the biological father said that he didn’t think that there was any sentence high enough to justify what they have done to her. The judge commended the father in these terms “I can’t fail to be impressed by the vigour and stamina that has been required of you to get matters this far; the complaints you’ve made and the letters you have had to write to get people to take this seriously as a criminal complaint.”

Biological imperative and paternal responsibility drove that father to ensure that his child was being properly cared for and the law inherently accepted that his blood ties made him a more appropriate figure with her best interests in mind, than either her biological mother or putative father, both of whom had treated her as little more than a commodity. When falsely informed that the mother had miscarried the child, he mourned for her, despite the fact that he was not in a relationship with her and such was his innate desire to be a father to his child, he undertook a lengthy and draining process while in the throes of a new relationship to a woman who has now become his wife and who will also share in the raising of the child.

What the above case demonstrates is that sometimes paternal biological imperative often, in extreme circumstances has to replace maternal care, but why is this used as proof that all a baby needs is human love and care irrespective of provider.  One has to be delusional or in willful denial of anthropology and the science of human development to claim that babies are neutral when it comes to needing their mothers. Where someone takes over the maternal role, the baby has to learn to adapt and will experience trauma and potentially attachment issues.

So why then, is it women, often mothers themselves, who are so keen to deny the compulsions of this biological imperative? That’s what I intend to explore in part 2.

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The white-hot incandescent anger induced by the case of the mother whose baby was removed from her by two men, has been replaced by an overwhelming grief and sadness.

Reflecting on the matter further, there are other disturbing factors which have come to light  which ought to be brought to wider attention. Unfortunately, the mother is gagged from being able to talk about which is in itself a worrying development. She ought to be able to tell her story, given this is a matter of enormous public interest, without facing jail. Lib Dem candidate for Birmingham Yardley John Hemming, a campaigner for openness in the courts, said:

‘How will it benefit the child to gag the mother? It benefits the court because it stops her from criticising the court.

‘For people to understand and trust the workings of the courts they need to know what is going on.’

Similarly the Tory candidate and former MP for Esher has said that it is a cardinal principle of British justice that it is not just done, but also seen to be done.

One of the many disturbing factors of this case is that the mother was criticised by judge Allison Russell, for her conduct in court. It wasn’t only the need for interruptions to express milk (obviously the judge has never experienced the unpleasantness and pain of spontaneous erruption, full breasts can be extremely painful – talking or thinking about a loved child can often stimulate an embarrassing and uncontrolled reaction) but what piqued the judge was that the mother interrupted the proceedings to make comments or question statements or representations far more often than the men, whose behaviour was cool, controlled and utterly reasonable.

Firstly there seems to be an issue of misogyny in that the mother was attacked for being ‘emotional’, which is hardly surprising when one considers what was at stake for her here. What leapt off the page for me when reading the judgement, was her utter desperation not to be separated from her vulnerable young baby. It was like a mother polar bear attempting to defend and protect her cubs and ward off any attackers, a typical mammalian reaction.

Secondly, unlike the two men, the mother had no lawyer or legal counsel and was representing herself. Had she been properly represented, she would no doubt have been briefed and advised of how to conduct herself and present her case before the judge, to be honest she seems like a client whom the lawyer would advise to keep as quiet as possible, but the judge doesn’t seem to have taken this inequality into account when critiquing the mother. And because the woman represented herself in the family court, the judge noted that she seemed articulate, passionate, engaged, able to account for herself and not therefore any sort of victim.

The law firm representing the two men was Natalie Gamble Associates. The leading experts in the field when it comes to family law, drawing up surrogacy agreements and self-described champions of assisted reproduction and fertility law. Every time a similar surrogacy mess rears its head in the mainstream media, up pops Natalie Gamble claiming how this is proof that commercial surrogacy needs to be ‘regulated’, i.e. legalised in the UK. Unsurprising coming from a firm whose sole source of revenue and profit is derived from surrogacy or fertility issues, but one can hardly claim she’s impartial on the matter.

So here we have a legally unrepresented mother fighting not to lose custody of her child, versus a firm of hot-shot lawyers and the judge negatively contrasts her demeanour with that of the two men in her conclusions about the woman’s character and passes an order banning the woman from ever being able to talk about it.

I am not defending all of the mother’s actions, from what has been reported it seems as though she did her best to frustrate contact with the baby’s biological father, which is unacceptable. If indeed she did tell lies about the male couple, this is not to be commended, however these  were the painfully transparent actions of a mother who was desperate and therefore fighting tooth and nail, not to lose her baby daughter.

One of the things that she was attacked for was unnecessary visits to the hospital and doctor when her child did not require treatment. The judge concluded that this was to smear the men, but on one occasion the child was diagnosed as having a viral infection; on another, the baby was found to be fine, but the mother was worried that she may have dehydration, just having come back from an overnight visit, where of course she would have been unable to have been breastfed.

One might draw one’s own reasonable conclusions as to whether these visits were wise or even necessary, but then again, how many of us have taken our children to the GP or even to the hospital because of an urgent niggle, only to be reassured that everything is fine? I know I certainly have and have always been told by the professionals to trust instinct and that’s better to be safe than sorry.

Another issue is that she posted numerous threads on Mumsnet in which she repeatedly changed her story on several occasions, which had then to be removed when the administrators realised that she was going through the courts and the story might hit the press. She had alleged history with regards to telling untruths about her ex-husband in order to frustrate his contact with their children.

So the woman is clearly not a saint; she needs some sort of external involvment, not least counselling in order to ensure that her children are not deprived of the opportunity to build a strong relationship with their father. The same goes with the father of her baby, clearly some sort of intervention needed to be had to ensure that a relationship could develop.

As to whether or not she is guilty of the greatest thought crime of the twenty-first century ‘homophobia’, I’d say this is unlikely given her original friendship with a gay man and agreement to enter into a surrogacy arrangement. It’s difficult to ascertain precisely what happened, but it seems as though initially she had contributed a large sum of her own money into the deposit on a house where all three of them were going to live together and she would take a role in the raising of the child. There were even emails about the baby sleeping in the mother’s room with her in a cot. But then something happened and the relationship, especially with the father’s partner, soured.

It does then cast the judge’s decision that the baby should go the the male couple, because that is where she was always intended to be, her ‘natural family’,  into doubt.

The mother’s registering of the birth, choosing a name for the baby and baptising the child are all things which she was legally entitled to do as the baby’s mother.

The male couple obviously had their legal options lined up, claiming that they were being utterly reasonable and had been forced into taking action, despite the fact the mother had broken no laws. Another horrific facet of this sorry tale is how the mother was forced to have regular meetings with a lactation midwife in order to plan how she could stop breastfeeding by the time the baby had reached 9 months, with the aim that the baby could commence overnight visits.

The problem with this, as any breastfeeding mother knows, is that with demand-led feeding it goes on for as long as both the baby asks it and the mother is content to feed. Breastfeeding is entirely between mother and child; though the child is non-verbal they are still able to communicate their need for the breast to their mother. It is absolutely not for anyone, let alone state agents to determine how long a mother ought to be feeding, in order that her baby may be prepared for handover and get used to sleeping alone in strange unfamiliar surroundings without the scent or comforting presence of their mother.

I was reminded of the dreadful cases of pregnant women in Nigeria or other Islamic countries, sentenced to death for alleged adultery with the execution stayed until the child has been weaned from the breast. No wonder the mother was as keen to delay taking the child off the breast for as long as possible; I know I would too, and equally I would not let my children stay overnight at anyone else’s house until they were at least beyond the age of 3. This is exactly what is advocated by child psychologists; to split their time between two houses and sets of parents is confusing and unsettling for children.

What leaps off the page is, is a mother desperate enough to go to silly lengths to keep her baby and whose fear of having her child removed led her to some rash actions, which ultimately counted against her.

The story seems to have touched several personal nerves for me, perhaps because I adopt similar parenting styles so critiqued by the judge and used as justification for removal of the child. I breastfeed, I wear my babies in a sling, I co-sleep, I am predominantly a stay-at-home mother. Over the years I too have been accused of being an unfit parent on the grounds of projected moral deficiency, I’ve had trolls and stalkers attempt to tell me that I am not fit to raise my children and am causing them harm, either by neglect (thanks to being able to type quickly and turn out long considered blogposts ) or thanks to my religious and social beliefs. I too, have been branded harmful and the welfare of my children been called into question by random internet strangers. It isn’t too hard to envisage a socially conservative woman finding herself at the centre of similar proceedings, with her children deemed to be ‘at risk’ from homophobia or indoctrination, if her parents do not hold liberal conformist views.

And there’s one final and as yet undiscussed aspect to this whole sorry mess. We are constantly informed that women need more representation in politics, in business and on the judiciary. Here we see a female judge who has chosen to pursue a career instead of a family attacking and unnecessarily removing the child from the care of a woman, because she is completely unable to empathise with another woman, or understand the rationale behind her mothering. She has imposed her own vision of what motherhood ought to look like (one completely devoid of evidence) onto another woman and punished her and her child, for falling short. Is this really the sort of female representation that we should be aspiring towards?

It is clear that no harm was being caused to the baby. It was arbitrarily decided that the baby girl would fare better in the care of two men based on the subjective negative impression that the judge formed of the woman, for being ‘emotional’, too involved,  too ‘homophobic’ and that the baby would have a better, healthier and more balanced future with two men.

It’s an awful mess and while I want to scream at the injustice of it all, I also want to weep for a little child, removed from the comfort, warmth and welcome of her mother’s breast and bed and instead placed into, no doubt a beautifully attractive and immaculate wooden cot, in a room all of her own, in a house without a woman.

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I’ve written about this case at length on a piece pending publication on Conservative Woman, so I’ll keep my comments here brief. Basically a woman who conceived her own child on behalf of two gay men, one of whom was her friend, reneged on the agreement and decided to keep her own child.

The child has now been removed from the mother at around the age of 15 months and handed into the care of the two men to raise. The judge, a dour childless old boot by the name of Allison Russell, has displayed zero insight into the benefits for mother and baby alike, along with a complete lack of understanding of the logistics and difficulties of expressing milk.

She has decided that the mother’s desire to breastfeed was manipulative. designed to keep the baby away from their father  and thus ‘harmful’ and attacked the mother in the judgement for wearing a baby in a sling, for co-sleeping and crucially for having no plans to return to work.

A fifteen month infant is not capable of speech, may not even be walking, cannot feed itself without help and yet, the judge has decided, it needs to learn to be independent and not solely reliant on the comfort of its mother. Wake up baby, it’s time to face the big wide world, you need to learn your place is to fulfil the needs and demands of adults and develop at a timetable to suit them, not your own. 15 months? It’s time you were spending 40 hours a week in a noisy room full of strange children and busy adults instead of enjoying the reassuring comfort and routine of home. Your mother has no business indulging you. She ought to be ought working to pay for your upkeep.

Over the weekend, in a moment that melted the world’s hearts, Prince William took the 21 month old baby George to visit his newborn sister, and setting down the child to walk on the pavement, George instantly signalled his displeasure and reached up his pudgy arms for his dad to give him a carry. According to Judge Russell, His Royal Highness is doing it all wrong, a child’s need for closeness with a parent is all about the fact that the parent has enmeshed the child in an inward looking environment which is all about serving the adult’s needs. If the judge is to be believed, breastfeeding, baby-carrying, co-sleeping, hey all that shebang is mere parental selfishness, designed to serve their neediness, requiring absolutely no self-sacrifice and of being no possible benefit to the child, whatever the evidence to the contrary.

Let’s be clear here. A woman has been attacked and vilified for fulfilling innate maternal desires. No good will has been imputed towards her, it is claimed that her breastfeeding is nothing but self-interested manipulation and the way she was raising her child does not meet with the approval of a childless judge. Even her need to take frequent breaks for expressing milk was attacked, the judge not understanding that the human female is not the equivalent of a dairy cow. Expressing even the tiniest bit of milk can take a long time for many women, and it is recommended that in order to stimulate production a woman is calm, comfortable and relaxed, i.e. not clock-watching under pressure in the lavatory of public courtroom, where the fate of one’s child is in the balance. Neither did the judge understand that the woman’s inability to express milk when her child was solely breastfeeding, was outside of her control. The milk didn’t suddenly ‘magically’ appear when the child began weaning, the mother was not withholding her ability, but simply that she had excess supply. Child starts solid food, takes less milk, the body takes time to catch up and will therefore produce a surplus. It’s not rocket science.

Whatever the behaviour of the woman, which might well have left a lot to be desired, it seems clear that she was prepared to go to desperate measures to keep her baby. Of course the child had a right to contact with her father, however, as leading child psychologist Penelope Leach notes, under the age of 4, children ought not to have sleepovers away from their main care-giver, the constant to-ing and fro-ing is bad for their psychological development, causing instability and anxiety. Of course a baby who has been exclusively breastfed and is used to sleeping with the comfort of her mother is going to be distressed by a night away in the solitary confinement of a cot in the house of two strange, if benign men.

This woman has had her child removed (and one cannot begin to image the turmoil, trauma and anxiety experienced by the baby) because she refused to parent her in order to facilitate the desires and needs of two men.

This is case which cries out to high heaven for justice. The feminists ought to be all over this like a cheap suit. Where is this woman’s autonomy, why is her mothering under attack when its acknowledged that the child is at no risk of harm? Heck, even heroin-addicted mothers are allowed to parent their babies under supervision. Since when does breastfeeding and if the judge is to believed, casting aspersions about the father’s behaviour in attempt to keep the child, justify the removal. When you look at the allegations made by the mother, though unpleasant, they aren’t homophobic, rather they raise questions about the nature of the relationship between the two men and whether it was a suitable environment for a child.  It seems to have been the judge who drew the correlation between what the woman was alleging about this couple and deciding it implicitly applied to every gay couple.

Removing a child for the supposed moral deficiency of the mother, is precisely the outdated attitude displayed by the mother-and-baby institutions of yesteryear. Catholics continue to be attacked by those supporting same-sex parenting for the way some religious sisters behaved in giving away their babies to richer, more stable couples and not allowing the child to bond with the mother, which caused years of heartbreak for so many and yet this is exactly what is being advocated here. “How dare you bond with a baby which doesn’t belong to you and which you have no right to parent, even if you have given birth to her.”

Commercial surrogacy is still illegal in the UK – why on earth are the courts attempting to accommodate this. Surely a better message would have been to allow the mother to keep her child, which would have been in both of their best interests, with  frequent contact, ordered for the father?

When are the feminists going to wake up to the fact that just because men are gay, it doesn’t make them any the less capable of using women as exploitable objects to serve their own gratification, than straight ones. The exploitation may not be sexual, but expecting women to be passive breeders, grateful for the cash they receive in return for relinquishing their bodily autonomy and motherhood and attacking them if they do not fulfil the demands of the contract to the letter, is every bit as  abusive and harmful. This is the inevitable consequence of gender blurring and claiming that the roles of mother and father are interchangeable. Women and babies are hurt, treated as consumer goods to be traded for the whims of men and backed up by the highest court in the land.

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Ask me what comes to mind when I think of a ten year old girl and I immediately picture my own, recently-turned-eleven, daughter. Her school has just transitioned into summer uniform and so I imagine her in her striking and smart tartan dress with puffed sleeves and a white collar, a red wool blazer and fetching straw boater with school badge and red ribbons. I image her spindly legs in white ankle socks, think of the tangle of hair that she’s not very adept at brushing, the knots I have to tease out for her and I think of her mannerisms and personality. Sometimes desperately childlike, mad on chocolate, overuses the word ‘adorable’ (especially when referring to dogs and babies), sometimes socially awkward, shy and introverted, sometimes the polar opposite, photo-bombing at every opportunity, sometimes the stroppy, lazy adolescent that she potentially will be in a few years time and sometimes an incredibly mature, thoughtful and considerate young lady. One who will pro-actively shepherd her younger siblings up to bed, into their pyjamas, brush their teeth and read them a story at bedtime, in an attempt to help, as she sometimes did when she spotted that mummy was exhausted in the latter stages of pregnancy.

What doesn’t come to mind when you ask me about a ten year old girl is the image of a pregnant woman. Such a thing is just too dreadful to contemplate, not simply because of the loss of innocence, but because for such a thing to have happened would mean that my little girl had been through a brutal, violent and phsyically agonising ordeal which her little body is not ready to take and which no child should ever have to endure. A pregnant ten year old is the victim of child sex abuse and what mother or father ever wants to envisage their child in that situation? As for were she to be pregnant – I’d be terrified that her little body would snap and break under the ordeal.

Naturally then, this case of a pregnant ten year old in Paraguy, raped and pregnant by her step-father fills the world with horror and repugnance, not only at what the poor child has been through, but at what lies in front of her, be that a late-stage abortion or childbirth. When we think of ten year olds, we don’t think of women but of underdeveloped girls, most of whom bear no outward signs of womanhood and who have not undergone puberty. I’ve only recently been through pregnancy again myself; the relentless sickness, the crippling tiredness and the embarrassing intimate problems. It’s nine months of discomfort, of confusing symptoms, complete abandonment of control and of tremendous emotional and physical upheaval. For the most part in today’s society the experience is rendered more acceptable because  it’s a freely undertaken choice with a desired outcome. An adult means to an adult end. Not an ordeal inflicted upon an ill-equipped, vulnerable young child.

But then how much of this is projection? While most Western 10 year old girls have not yet reached puberty, evidence suggests that not only is puberty beginning earlier, hence the drive for sex education at an ever-younger age, but also that different ethnic groups, such as African and Hispanics, may start puberty at around the age of 8. The idea of a pregnant child ought to continue to horrify us, but put very crudely, if a 10 year-old is actually able to conceive a child, presumably her body ought to be sufficiently developed to bear it? I can think of a few children within my daughter’s peer group who unbelievably already tower above me height wise, who have begun puberty and who most definitely look older than their years. It might be that this poor abused 10 year old is actually physically capable of delivering her child.

For the avoidance of doubt, that a child is able to conceive, is not an argument to suggest that they should conceive or even deliver a child of their own – the late stages of pregnancy and childbirth exact an enormous toll on even a fully-developed adult woman, but there isn’t evidence to suggest that pregnancy for every single, pre-teen is life-threatening. In this particular dreadful instance, nobody save the clinicians knows the medical specifics and so all the talk about it being life-threatening is a mixture of understandable projection and hyperbole. We imagine ourselves or children we know and love, being pregnant at the age of ten and are horrified. Currently the UK’s youngest mother was a 12 year old, who conceived at the age of 11 and a quick Wikki search demonstrates that there have been some mothers as young as 9 and 10.

What we do know, is that this pregnancy was discovered when the child was 22 weeks pregnant. The short-term future is none too pleasant either way. The fetus, if we going to pander to the popular de-humanising euphemism, is already a fully formed human being, discernably a real person with a face, eyelashes, hair, arms, legs, fingers, toes who will be kicking, swallowing, smiling, sucking their thumb and whatever. There’s no ‘easy’ way to abort at that stage. There’s no pill to pop to bring about an early miscarriage and no quick suction procedure. We’re talking about a 10 year old being asked to deliver a deceased 22 week baby, or a difficult, gruesome, potentially dangerous surgical procedure. Afterwards the child can expect to experience her milk coming in and will have the trauma of a lost baby to deal with, as if she didn’t already have enough to cope with.

The other option is for her to give birth. Again, not something that one would wish to inflict upon a 10 year old. But given the stage in her pregnancy, taking at face value the assertions that her life is at risk (which don’t seem to be evidenced anywhere) surely the kindest, most compassionate thing to do would be to continue to strictly monitor the child and then deliver her baby via cesarian section, under general anesthetic, as soon as it becomes necessary.

In terms of whether or not the girl ought to raise the baby, that surely ought to be a matter for her. What isn’t being reported is what her feelings are on the matter, all we know is that the mother has requested an abortion for her daughter, although the mother has also been arrested for breaching duty of care and being an accomplice to child abuse. According to Fox News Latino, she reported that her daughter was being sexually abused last January and yet continued to live with the perpetrator. She has also provided a number of false clues as to his whereabouts.  We do not know and we cannot speculate on the mother’s motives, however it’s interesting to note that the mother’s wishes are being given weight or seen as taking precedence whereas in other cases in the UK of a pre-teen requesting abortion or contraception, provided the child is deemed to meet Gillick competence, the parents’ wishes would be overruled or they would not even be informed.

But it’s difficult to see how abortion could serve to make the issue any better in this unimaginably awful situation. Even had she been immediately granted a 22 week abortion, it would have been no walk in the park, however surely even a 10 year old, while she might lack the emotional maturity to cope with pregnancy, childbirth and a young baby, surely ought to be given the time to come to terms with the situation and have some input into the decision. Why would instantly whipping the baby out in a late-stage abortion have been the right thing to do, it would only have served to inflict more violence upon an already abused and hurting child and removed yet more autonomy from her.

And the elephant in the room is of course the unborn child, who is deemed to be of no consequence with no right to exist; their very presence being synonymous with atrocity. Why would it be so unfeasible for the child to be adopted and raised by a loving couple, or for the child herself to keep her baby, presuming this was what she wanted? Why is abortion being touted as the only solution in this instance?

I’m not denying that the pregnancy can not sometimes be high risk for adolescents, one of the factors being lack of prenatal care, I’m not advocating that ten year olds ought be having babies, I’m not assuming that a ten year old giving birth is like shelling peas, however what I am questioning is why it is being reported that the child’s life is at risk if she does not have an abortion. What health condition would the proposed abortion treat? As she is under the care of the authorities, then surely her pre-natal care will be better than for many others in her situation?

The other pressing question is why on earth Amnesty International have seen fit to get involved, what has this case got to do with someone being detained or imprisoned for their political beliefs? It is claimed that the girl is being forced to continue with an unwanted pregnancy, which is tantamount to torture and indeed no-one would want to inflict an unwanted pregnancy or child upon a child, however we are only being told that the mother requested the abortion for her daughter, not what the daughter’s thoughts are. Since when did Amnesty become an organisation about promoting pro-choice, abortion ideology instead of being about basic human rights, of which the right-to-life should be paramount? The word Amnesty is derived from the Greek, meaning ‘forgetfulness’, clearly the organisation has forgotten the Catholicism of their founder and there is to be no amnesty for the unborn children deemed burdensome due to potential maternal poverty.

Just as various groups exploited and politicised the tragedy of Savita Halapannaver to lobby for liberal abortion in Ireland, the same thing seems set to be happening in Paraguy.

What has happened is revolting and indefensible. It really is one of those compassionate hard cases for whom the Abortion Act in 1967 was devised. But it’s not clear how a latej-stage abortion performed upon a 10 year old girl by request of her mother, who happens to be married to her abuser, would go any way towards helping the girl on her long journey of healing.

Easy to say when it’s not my daughter, especially as I hear the strains of her earnestly practicing the piano floating up through the floorboards, bashing out Beethoven without a care in the world. But then I think of her cradling her baby brother, or tenderly helping her younger sisters and know that however terrible the ordeal she had been through, coaxing her to get rid of her own baby, even if it was with her best interests at heart, would not necessarily be the right answer. Please God, it’s something with which few mothers will ever be faced.

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