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Infants are Murdered Every Year by the Hands of Their Mothers

Posted on: September 29, 2009

Infants are Murdered Every Year by the Hands of Their Mothers

Infanticide – Ultimate Child Abuse

Infants are Murdered Every Year by the Hands of Their Mothers

© Karen Stephenson

Murdering a newborn baby, what could be more depraved? A woman killing a child she gave birth to is unthinkable, yet it happens. Infant homicide is a horrific crime.

In a Wetaskiwin, Alberta courtroom in the autumn of 2006, a sentence was handed to a twenty year old woman that shocked many people. Katrina Effert was given a life sentence with no parole for ten years for the killing of her newborn son, Rodney. In a bid to keep her pregnancy and childbirth a secret from her parents, she suffocated her baby with a towel and a pair of her thong underwear.

Effert’s life sentence was unprecedented for a case of infant homicide, or better known as infanticide. No Canadian woman has been sent to jail for over one year for this crime. This is because in 1948 a legal provision was enacted to Canadian infanticide law that emulated the English Infanticide Act of 1922. Law makers and the medical community believed that at the time of committing infant homicide, if the mother has not fully recovered from the effects of giving birth to the child, her mind is deemed “disturbed”.

Infanticide is defined as being when a woman, by a willful act or omission, causes the death of her baby under one year of age. Neonaticide is when a mother kills her newborn baby.

Kirsten Johnson Kramer Ph. D. and William Watson, Ph. D., authored: “Canadian Infanticide Legislation, 1948 and 1955: Reflections on the Medicalization/Autopoiesis Debate”, in the Canadian Journal of Sociology. They state that the implication drawn by the feminist medicalization theorists is that the law, following psychiatry, claims that women are prone to mental instability for giving birth.

Many advocates across Canada and the United States claim that a baby’s right to live should override sympathy for infanticidal mothers. Many years ago, sympathy was directed more to the mother, who faced shame and isolation for being a single mother. In “Crime and Women – Feminine Equality and the Criminal Law”, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote: “Women faced with an unwanted pregnancy now have a number of less desperate alternatives available to them.”

Shifting Attitudes

A change of attitude among many in Canada and the United States has swelled in recent years. Abstinence, contraception, abortion, adoption and foster care are all less desperate alternatives that society has put into place so women have choices.

Attitudes began to shift after a groundbreaking study by Dr. Phillip Resnick of Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve was released in 1970. It found that mothers who commit infant homicide are not psychotic, suicidal or depressed, but mothers who kill their older children often are.

Some people, and likely many who served on the Wetaskiwin jury, no longer view the killing of a newborn as a justifiable act of a desperate woman. Infanticide is the most unacceptable form of child abuse. Writer Anne Woudstra feels that if a pregnant woman fits the profile of women who have committed infanticide, then it should become mandatory for these women to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before leaving the hospital with her baby. Not only can this form of intervention save a life, but it can be a method of getting help for the new mother.

Risk Factors

Mothers-to-be who might be at risk of committing infanticide are those who are young (generally under twenty), have a low level of education, are unemployed with no means of being self-supporting, show signs of psychotherapy, alcoholism or drug abuse.

Sadly, there are no shortage of headlines sharing the ultimate tragedy of the death of a baby. Prevention is crucial for mothers-at-risk. Recognizing the signs and helping is important in eliminating infanticide in Canada and the United States.

Further Reading:

Prohibiting Female Infanticide

Mar 7, 2009

Infanticide is a Crime, Nesstor4u2 at Morguefile.com
Murdering a newborn baby, what could be more depraved? A woman killing a child she gave birth to is unthinkable, yet it happens. Infant homicide is a horrific crime.

In a Wetaskiwin, Alberta courtroom in the autumn of 2006, a sentence was handed to a twenty year old woman that shocked many people. Katrina Effert was given a life sentence with no parole for ten years for the killing of her newborn son, Rodney. In a bid to keep her pregnancy and childbirth a secret from her parents, she suffocated her baby with a towel and a pair of her thong underwear.

Effert’s life sentence was unprecedented for a case of infant homicide, or better known as infanticide. No Canadian woman has been sent to jail for over one year for this crime. This is because in 1948 a legal provision was enacted to Canadian infanticide law that emulated the English Infanticide Act of 1922. Law makers and the medical community believed that at the time of committing infant homicide, if the mother has not fully recovered from the effects of giving birth to the child, her mind is deemed “disturbed”.

Infanticide is defined as being when a woman, by a willful act or omission, causes the death of her baby under one year of age. Neonaticide is when a mother kills her newborn baby.

Kirsten Johnson Kramer Ph. D. and William Watson, Ph. D., authored: “Canadian Infanticide Legislation, 1948 and 1955: Reflections on the Medicalization/Autopoiesis Debate”, in the Canadian Journal of Sociology. They state that the implication drawn by the feminist medicalization theorists is that the law, following psychiatry, claims that women are prone to mental instability for giving birth.

Many advocates across Canada and the United States claim that a baby’s right to live should override sympathy for infanticidal mothers. Many years ago, sympathy was directed more to the mother, who faced shame and isolation for being a single mother. In “Crime and Women – Feminine Equality and the Criminal Law”, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote: “Women faced with an unwanted pregnancy now have a number of less desperate alternatives available to them.”

//

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Shifting Attitudes

A change of attitude among many in Canada and the United States has swelled in recent years. Abstinence, contraception, abortion, adoption and foster care are all less desperate alternatives that society has put into place so women have choices.

Attitudes began to shift after a groundbreaking study by Dr. Phillip Resnick of Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve was released in 1970. It found that mothers who commit infant homicide are not psychotic, suicidal or depressed, but mothers who kill their older children often are.

Some people, and likely many who served on the Wetaskiwin jury, no longer view the killing of a newborn as a justifiable act of a desperate woman. Infanticide is the most unacceptable form of child abuse. Writer Anne Woudstra feels that if a pregnant woman fits the profile of women who have committed infanticide, then it should become mandatory for these women to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before leaving the hospital with her baby. Not only can this form of intervention save a life, but it can be a method of getting help for the new mother.

Risk Factors

Mothers-to-be who might be at risk of committing infanticide are those who are young (generally under twenty), have a low level of education, are unemployed with no means of being self-supporting, show signs of psychotherapy, alcoholism or drug abuse.

Sadly, there are no shortage of headlines sharing the ultimate tragedy of the death of a baby. Prevention is crucial for mothers-at-risk. Recognizing the signs and helping is important in eliminating infanticide in Canada and the United States.

Further Reading:

Prohibiting Female Infanticide

Infanticide – Ultimate Child Abuse: Infants are Murdered Every Year by the Hands of Their Mothers | Suite101.com.

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