“A mother was in jail on charges of murder yesterday after refusing to undergo a caesarean delivery in a case that reignites America’s debate on the competing rights of foetuses and women.
In what was seen as a test of new state and federal legislation expanding the definition of human life, Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, was accused of exhibiting ‘depraved indifference to human life’ for disregarding the advice of doctors to give birth to her twins by caesarean section.
One of the twins, a boy, was stillborn. The other, a girl, survived and has been adopted. If she is convicted of causing her unborn son’s death, Ms Rowland could face life in prison, press reports said.
It was not clear yesterday why she ignored repeated medical advice last winter that the twins were in danger. The prosecution argues it was vanity, and that Ms Rowland told a nurse she did not want a scar.” —Guardian.UK
Addendum: On further reflection, I largely agree with other observers who doubt the ‘vanity’ rationale. First of all, it appears Rowland had both a history of prior C-sections — which makes a mockery of prosecution claims she was motivated to avoid a scar — and a history of mental illness. The evidence suggesting that the woman was terrified argues that it may have been anything but ‘depraved indifference’ which impaired her ability to cooperate with medical advice.
[On the other hand, I need to express my scorn at the scurrilous comments that are beginning to appear to the effect that one cannot imagine vanity as a motivation after looking at the widely disseminated wire photo of Rowland. Not that it is up to any of you to rule on whether someone’s appearance even at their best justifies their putative vanity, but the woman appears terrified and exhausted; she was alone, postpartum, one of her babies having been taken away and the other stillborn, and she had just been booked on murder charges.]
It is certainly not as cut-and-dried as pitting the rights of the foetus against that of the mother. While the death of the baby boy is grievous, it may not be reprehensible, and the case may perhaps be better considered to pit the rights of the mother against those of a Utah prosecutor with a morally conservative agenda and opportunistic visions of an illustrious career move from a sensational case.