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Historic Texas Bill Limits Jail Time for Infanticide Caused by Postpartum Psychosis

By Expert HERWriter
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This proposal seeks to include postpartum psychosis as a moderating condition in the penalty phase - it does not seek to remove responsibility for infant welfare.

There is one misquote in the article that is important to correct. Instead of “for every mother who receives treatment, there are ten who are in jail”, that statement should have read, “For every mother whose trial results in mandated psychological treatment only, there are ten who may receive jail time under current legal mandates”.

Providing this new and historic option to jurors during the penalty phase following conviction offers the option of assigning more appropriate and compassionate treatment, including intensive psychological care. By its very existence this legal option serves to decriminalize acts related to severe maternal psychosis, assign appropriate causative factors and add emphasis to the need for awareness, earlier detection, intervention and even the shared responsibility of family and providers in bringing the mother to treatment. Such tragedies can be prevented which is the ultimate goal of the maternal mental health movement.

While many other civilized countries in the world already have an infanticide defense that does NOT include jail time, the United States continues to lag behind in our legal and social understanding of these disorders.

In other activities which bring opportunities for primary prevention and awareness, efforts are underway on the state and federal level, such as The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act, to initiate public awareness campaigns, conduct more research and offer assessment, support and screening to mothers during and after pregnancy. The bill is named after Melanie Blocker Stokes - an intelligent, successful and devoted young mother who leapt to her death as a result of postpartum psychosis. The bill was reintroduced to the 111th Congress by U. S. Senator Robert Menendez in the senate and Congressman Bobby L. Rush in the House of Representatives this past January.

Postpartum psychosis is an extremely rare (less than 1 in a thousand) condition in which a mother may be susceptible to “command hallucinations”, i.e.

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EmpowHER Guest

There is a clear difference between someone who commits infanticide while ill with postpartum psychosis and one who doesn't. These women should be treated differently. It is a failing of society when one of these acts occurs: it means none of us did our job in caring for this woman and her child/children and keeping all of them safe until the mother has recovered.

March 25, 2009 - 9:49am
EmpowHER Guest

Are we living in jungle? All homicide cases do have some psycological angle. We are creating and defending monsters.

March 24, 2009 - 3:47am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Those of us who are committed to improving the mental health and well-being of mothers and their infants are also unbearably pained and disturbed by the death of an innocent child, but we know without question that the acts that occur in the maelstrom of untreated psychosis are neither well thought out or thought through. They are driven by the cruel aberrations in brain chemistry that make it impossible for the afflicted mother to control her behavior or her actions. To assume that this legislation will promote crimes of infanticide is akin to censoring sex education in schools in the belief that it will increase sexual activity among teens. The most powerful weapon we have is knowledge, education and information. It is legislation like this new bill from Texas that increases society's consciousness about the absolute necessity of increasing awareness of the potentially horrific consequences of undiagnosed and untreated psychosis so that ultimately, we can avoid one more devastating and irreversible death of a child and the accompanying destruction of a family. Diana Lynn Barnes, Psy.D

March 24, 2009 - 12:32pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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