parents

A woman who has previously had children removed by authorities, now wants access to IVF.

The story that is dividing parents across the nation.

It is a tragic tale, but all the more tragic in the very many layers it reveals about parenting in our society.

The story, making headlines across Australia today, is of a woman from Victoria, aged in her 40s, who has been banned from undergoing fertility treatment because of her poor record caring for her other four children.

The woman and her partner of more than five years tragically lost their only baby to SIDS.

According to reports, the grieving mother carries around her dead infant’s ashes everywhere she goes.

“A couple grieving the loss of their baby from SIDS. Their insatiable desire for another child. One last chance, denied by a court.”

When she went to have IVF – a procedure covered under Medicare – under Victorian law they had to undergo a child protection order check.

The mother and potential father-to-be, failed.

They appealed the decision to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal who published their decision last week.

Denied.

The basis? Well from what was written the basis was a pretty darn good one. The mother was found to have posed a potential risk to the health and well being of a child should they have one.

Her track record showed an appalling degree of neglect and abuse.

“When she went to have IVF they had to undergo a child protection order check. They failed.”

The tribunal heard that the mother had verbally abused her children, telling one son he was a ‘smart alec’ and he’d grow up to be a ‘woman beater’, calling another a ‘bastard’ and smacking them.

At various times in recent years child protection authorities had removed the four children from her custody.

In a decision published late last week, VCAT said there was a “long history of substantiated concerns” recorded against her, including physical and emotional abuse, and medical and environmental neglect.”

At one stage the tribunal heard, she left her young son at home in charge of younger siblings, she had threatened young children with clenched fist for coming near her, had left them unsupervised on roads and at times, had no beds in her home for the children.

“Even allowing for a degree of overzealous attention on the part of the department, the nature and extent of the reports, which have also originated from the children’s school and attention from police, are serious and consistent,” the tribunal found.

The tribunal ruled “In the tribunal’s view… there are significant and continuing risks to the welfare and interests of a child to be born to the applicants by means of ART [assisted reproductive technology] and at this stage, the tribunal cannot be satisfied that it is in the best interests of a child to be born for such treatment procedure to be made available.”

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Bravo.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, where the decision was handed down.

It is not the first time this panel has been used to deny a couple the right to IVF but it is one of only a few since the laws were introduced in 2010 forcing Victorians to prove they are fit to be parents when they begin IVF treatment.

News Limited reports that Patient Review Panel data shows almost 150 “barrier to treatment” cases have been considered since 2010, with only about five upheld.

In one instance of ones that sadly go through – a sex offender and his wife won a landmark legal battle to get access to IVF after he was initially banned because of his conviction.

When the laws were first introduced there was considerable anger that they were discriminatory with many asking why couples who conceive naturally shouldn’t undergo police checks.

(I think not a bad idea actually… )

In the case of this VCAT judgement vice-president Judge Pamela Jenkins wrote in the decision that “the paramount consideration is the best interests of a child to be born”.

Finally – the best interests of a child being put first.

The mother had been accused of physical and emotional abuse towards her children, as well as medical and environmental neglect.

Of course this does not prevent the parents conceiving a child naturally, if they are able to.

It also does not prevent the parents if they can fund (or crowdfund which seems to be the latest thing to do) IVF treatments overseas.

But what it does do is prevent our Medicare system assisting with the birth of a child who may be endangered. It prevents funds that could go to other needy recipients being funneled into the pockets of people who don’t deserve children.

No matter how deep the grief from the loss of a baby there is no excuse for mistreating innocent children. There is no excuse for poor parenting. There is no excuse for abuse or neglect.

Having a baby is a privilege – and one that society needs to respect – and this decision is a great reflection of that sentiment.

This article originally appeared on The Motherish. 

What do you think of the decision? Playing god or justified?

For more on IVF… 

Mel Greig: “Why don’t women talk about having IVF?”

The IVF patient who is pregnant with the wrong embryos.

Sir Elton John vows to boycott Dolce & Gabbana after designers call IVF children ‘synthetic’.

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