Wednesday, May 03, 2006

PPD Law is Depressing

With all the strides we women made in the last 150+ years, the beginning of this new century is seeing a decided turn towards removing any semblance of our personal freedom. We seem to still be at the mercy of men, as they are the one's who control our legislatures, and of those women, who would call themselves our sisters, but who seem to think that some of our gender haven't the wherewithal to cross the street unescorted.

Coming hot on the heels of the South Dakota ban on abortion, we now see New Jersey passing legislation that makes it mandatory for all new mothers to undergo mental health screening to determine if they do or do not have Postpartum Depression, or PPD. And the guiding hand behind this ludicrous idea? Why it is non other that the wife of the former governor, Mary Jo Codey, who it seems suffered from PPD herself. I feel for Mrs. Codey, I truly do, but her personal afflictions are surely not grounds enough for legislation that encompasses all the women who reside in her state.

Postpartum depression is surely a horrible experience for very many women, but those who choose suicide or kill their children are very few and far between. Perhaps because women have always been cast in the maternal role, and are expected to be loving and nurturing beings, we find it hard to understand when motherhood is less than a joy filled experience for some of us. Certainly it has been totally overwhelming for those like Andrea Yates, who certainly loved her children but found her depression and an overbearing husband too much to deal with.

The next question is, just how far should we allow government to intrude into our personal lives? What is the penalty for refusing to participate in the screening? If you do not participate does that mean forfeiture of your newborn? Where does this whole mess end? New Jersey has directed it's health care professionals to screen mother's after delivery and again a few weeks later. Having experienced the "Baby Blues" I can honestly say that had I been "screened" the day after delivery I might not have passed the test, however, a day later I was fine. Actually, had they asked to screen me, my answer would have been a resounding no, and probably relocation to another state.

While obstetricians will say that some screening is perhaps in order, they are now required to counsel families about the disorder and to screen the mother's of newborns. Is the state to pay for therapy if one is found to show signs of PPD? And just exactly what are the questions asked in the screening process? I have seen other examples of mental health screening questions, particularly those used by "Teen Screen" and no one would be able to answer them and come out with a clean bill of mental health.

While I certainly have nothing but compassion for those who do suffer PPD, and having had, myself, a minor bout with the "Baby Blues", I must say that I think a pre-disposition to depression might exist, as it did in the case of Andrea Yates. I may very well be wrong but I find it difficult to believe that 80% of New Jersey's new mother's are all women at the brink of suicide or are contemplating murdering their children.

In the meantime, the women of New Jersey are being forced to do something that might just take all the joy out of new motherhood, and is surely an entree or the Pharmaceutical companies to ride the coattails of a good thing...and they didn't even have to invent the syndrome!

Susan B. Goodwin

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