But turning a blind eye to the context and failing to implement strategic preventive programs serves no one, continuing the stigma that separates those who suffer from available life-saving treatment.
Parnham's quest for appropriate legal and medical outcomes for such women takes a courage that few can shoulder. But because of his insistence that truth inform punishment, the number of women whose mental illness has led to lifelong incarceration without appropriate process or treatment, may some day be reduced, ending a dark history of legal, medical and social abandonment.
Two years ago, Parnham, along with Rep.Jessica Farrar, introduced legislation to modify the penalty phase of trials in which a mother's mental illness was a mitigating factor. Such legislation is already on the books in other countries, but not in the U.S. Our juries have not often been able to consider mitigating circumstances when they involve the death of a child. In the absence of awareness and understanding, outrage is understandable. Such challenges should evoke fierce debate about how best to protect mentally ill mothers and their children.
We know that unaddressed mental health issues among pregnant and postpartum women result in many long range and adverse effects on the infant's physical and emotional well being. Yet even lesser manifestations of disconnect from problem and solution remain. The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act including in Healthcare Reform may begin to finally reverse this persistent ignorance of a public health crisis through its federal funding of programs and research.
But we have a ways to go. American mothers are still offered only one acceptable response to birth: joyful reception and demonstrated capacity to subjugate their life to that of their newborn. Those of us fortunate to have the promised experience adjust to the tasks of motherhood with support, mental health and the capacity to meet these challenges.