President of the Family Division, Andrew McFarlane has suggested that the law should be changed so that judges can make care orders while a child is still in the womb. The President’s recommendation fails to understand how the policy could cause mothers heightened stress during pregnancy, leading to a sharp rise in miscarriages.
The recommendation comes at a time when newborns being taken into care are at an all time high, and prominent social care professionals are calling for the system to divert families away from the courts.
It is not just this site that is appalled by the President’s thinking on child welfare. The recommendation has shocked families in the UK, who took to social media this week to voice their concerns.
One mother told her friends on Facebook, “Oh Andrew McFarlane, says it all….. never mind the fact that a child isn’t even recognised in law until it’s born, but an order is being made 🤔…interesting…..”.
Another mother who had been through care proceedings said, “It is inhumane. It’s unthinkable.”
Other parents thought that the idea suggested the President was a misogynist, while some posters took the view that the policy could lead to increased suicide rates and backstreet abortions. An issue which also concerned commentators was the possibility of the policy being abused to feed the adoption and fostering sectors by effectively securing babies for these markets. One poster wrote, “Not a problem if they take kids from lunatics but we know it’s another legal instrument [the family court] will abuse.”
A father on Facebook pointed out the confusion in law over parental rights and the rights of the court, “Fkn disgusting a father has no rights to a child before it’s born, but social services should have. Has this fkn world gone mad?”
Some posters thought the policy was more suited to a story line in sci-fi series The X-Files.
McFarlane made his recommendation during a speech he gave at a conference for the Association of Lawyers for Children in Bristol. He told attendees:
“Irrespective of any practical difficulties that may arise in terms of listing and then conducting a court hearing during the first few days of a child’s life, there are, I believe, important principles of fairness and, frankly, humanity which may indicate that, in some cases, it would be in the interests of all concerned if some form of pre-birth court process could be undertaken…
Given the number of such cases which are now coming before the Family Court, and in the light of the real difficulties which some of these cases can generate, I wonder whether the time has come to consider some amendment to the statutory scheme to allow for the exercise of a prospective pre-birth jurisdiction in appropriate cases.”
While the President believes the idea of pre-birth court hearings is a humane alternative to what is currently on offer, this is not correct. Family court proceedings are deeply invasive and often cause families severe anxiety which can go on to create mental health disorders, like PTSD. The added emotional trauma and physical stress of having to undergo assessments and hearings during pregnancy will most certainly lead to women having miscarriages, or increasingly choosing to end their own lives.
What the President proposes will leave him with a great deal of blood on his hands.
Very many thanks to Michele Simmons for sharing this development with us.