EXCLUSIVE: Young mum, 23, reveals terrifying moment she was ‘threatened with handcuffs and forced to have a caesarean under police guard’ after doctors denied her a natural birth
- Young mum claims she was forced into a caesarean
- The 23-year old had planned a natural birth
- Police and social workers arrived at her door
- Claims she was told child would die if born naturally
- Cops threatened to handcuff terrified mum
A young mum who refused to have her baby via caesarean had police turn up at her doorstep and threaten to drag her to hospital in handcuffs.
The 23-year-old mother of four had planned a natural birth after two previous caesareans, but claimed doctors denied her the option despite her baby being well.
On August 10, 2021, after refusing a caesarean the day before, Heather – not her real name – claimed a policewoman and social worker from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice in Deniliquin came to her house to take her to hospital.
‘I was so tired and just cried with tears streaming down my face,’ she said of the ordeal.
Authorities say decisions were made in the best interests of the patient and their baby.
Heather claims she was forced to have her baby (pictured) by caesarean
Heather nurses her baby, who had to be delivered via caesarean on the insistence of doctors and authorities
Heather was told she would be taken to hospital in handcuffs is she didn’t agree to have her baby (pictured) via caesarean
‘They told me I’d have a dead baby if I tried to have a vaginal birth. I was told my vagina was too fat and my baby would get stuck. I knew it was wrong. I know bigger women than me that have had babies,’ Heather said.
‘They told me if something was to go wrong they wouldn’t be able to help.’
Heather told Daily Mail Australia the authorities had claimed to be concerned about the distance she lived from the closest hospital.
‘Which didn’t make sense because other women from the town had birthed at Shepperton – 137km away – without having to go in early,’ she said.
Heather claimed the policewoman told her a story about a relative who went into labour and lost the baby after giving birth on the side of the road on the way to hospital.
‘I knew it was just another scare tactic. The policewoman said I could come willingly but if I didn’t, I’d be handcuffed,’ she said.
‘My main thought was to make sure the kids didn’t see it, so I asked if I could go and get my hospital bag.
‘I was petrified. I was terrified I’d lose my kids. I went inside and cried while I finished packing my bag.’
Heather was taken in the social worker’s car to Jerilderie Hospital after Shepperton Hospital was unable to provide a bed.
Once at the hospital, the social worker told her the policewoman would be stationed outside her door.
Heather (her child is pictured) has been left traumatised by her experience with NSW authorities
At about midnight, Heather said she was taken to Shepperton Hospital, locked in the birthing suite and told a security guard was posted outside the door.
A doctor didn’t come to see her until 10.30am, she said.
When the doctor finally arrived, Heather pleaded to have a natural birth as she had two toddlers at home to care for and had suffered severe postnatal depression after the previous two caesareans.
Heather claimed the doctor told her she would need to go to a Melbourne hospital to have a natural birth, which would see her children removed from her care and likely result in a custody battle with authorities to get them back.
‘I knew it was true. I was so scared, but I was also so tired I could barely keep my eyes open,’ she said.
Heather and her husband reluctantly consented to the caesarean.
‘It felt rushed. Everything was happening around me and I was just there to witness it. I was so tired and just cried with tears streaming down my face. No one talked to me,’ she said.
Heather was already a mum when doctors insisted they knew what was in her best interests. Her baby is pictured alongside her young son
Heather felt pressured into having her baby (pictured) via caesarean
Two days after returning home after having the forced caesarean, Heather claims social workers again came knocking on her door.
For the next six months Heather was forced to participate in a Brighter Futures program – an early intervention program ‘building resilience in vulnerable families with young children’.
Heather said the experience had left her traumatised and she continues to see a psychologist after suffering severe postnatal depression following the birth.
Bashi Kumar, a lawyer who specialises in human rights in childbirth, said an unborn foetus was not a person at law and the NSW Government had acted unlawfully.
‘By intervening, the DCJ is unlawfully coercing a pregnant woman to undergo medical treatment,’ Ms Kumar said.
‘The NSW Children and Young Person’s Act 1998 does not confer the DCJ with any rights over a pregnant woman – who is the only person with legal rights and responsibilities over her body prior to the birth.’
Ms Kumar said the Act allowed health practitioners to make a ‘pre-natal report’ but did not give the DCJ any authority to coerce or threaten a woman to undergo medical treatment until the baby was born alive and physically separated from its mother.
‘The DCJ has a history of misusing the pre-natal reporting provision to discriminate against the most vulnerable women in our society, using it as a basis for the removal of indigenous infants from their mothers within minutes of giving birth,’ Ms Kumar said.
‘What DCJ has done is unlawful. It is acting beyond its statutory powers and is an action that should be legally challenged, and a complaint lodged with the respective human rights institutions.’
Goulburn Valley Health executive director clinical operations Donna Sherringham, told Daily Mail Australia clinical decisions were always made by experts in accordance with what was in the best interests of the patient and their baby and the related issues at the time.
A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Justice said it was unable to comment on the case, but was committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children.
‘This includes the protection of unborn children where there are concerns for welfare,’ the spokesperson said.
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