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Hi, I am doing a doctoral thesis in law on the current tendency toward criminalising so-called 'bad' mothers by setting up a dichotomy between children's 'rights' and women's rights and treating these as conflicting and in need of punitive regulation to protect children. In New Zealand we seem to be articulating a new legal duty on mothers while ignoring issues of class, race and poverty. I am new to the net and would be grateful if you could help me find info on what's happening in your country in this area. Regards, Ocean

Thanks for your note.

Anyway, let's face it--as long as women remain the primary care givers it will be impossible to separate children's rights from women's rights. This is similar to the rationalization that welfare is a separate issue from women's issues--huh? So you are certainly right that not only should these two be looked at at the same time, but they can't be separated from class and race issues. Also if you look at the women who are being criminalized in relationship to their relationship to their children--inevitably these will be poor women of color. The only time the government or the media seems to care enough about poor black women to pay attention to them is when they wrongly want to vilify them by wrongly exploiting them in the media and/or cutting funding for the programs that serve them.

In the United States this has been brought to light through a couple cases--one is charging a mother (Tabitha Waldron) with murder because her infact died of lack of nutrition. What they fail to focus on is how this woman had a breast reduction and was never told that this would affect her breast feeding. Another example, are the women who are labeled "crack mothers"--women, mostly black and always poor, who are charged with murder because they used crack while pregnant--neglecting the fact that these poor women are denied basic nutritional programs--which causes more harm than the crack could.

Anyway, cases like these are often handled by the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy--a U.S. based group working to change the situation for these women. You could contact them and see what other information they have. Also, I suggest you reference Dorothy Robert's book, Killing the Black Body--which further looks at these cases as well as how racism often underlies such cases.

I hope that helps--and good luck to you.


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