An Italian mother reportedly had her unborn baby forcibly taken from her womb and turned over to social services in the United Kingdom last year.
The cesarean section, which was authorized by a High Court judge, has since sparked a legal custody battle in three countries. The 15-month-old baby girl is under the care of social services in the U.K. while an adoption by a British couple is pending.
Though the court-mandated C-section took place last summer, the case is now coming to light after it was reported by columnist Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph.
According to the British newspaper, the unnamed Italian mother was staying at a hotel in Essex for work when she became concerned that she lost her children's passports and notified police. (Her two other children were staying with her mother in Italy at the time.) After officers responded, authorities learned the woman has a mental health disorder, possibly a bipolar condition, the report notes. She was taken to a psychiatric hospital following the alleged panic attack and reportedly held under the Mental Health Act.
Weeks later, after social services obtained a court order to deliver the child, the pregnant woman was forcibly sedated, the report notes. When she woke up she discovered her baby had been delivered via C-section.
While Essex social services was reportedly acting in the best interests of the child, many beg to differ. Human rights activists have condemned social services for the enforced birth.
"Please God there's more to this, but at first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours," said Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organization Liberty, according to The Guardian. "Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency."
Though the mother was appointed legal aid for initial proceedings in Essex, she has since enlisted her own lawyers in the U.K. and Italy in order to gain custody of her child. The woman's estranged husband and father of her eldest child has also sought legal custody of the baby girl in the United States in an attempt to keep the child in the family.
The case is expected to be brought before Parliament this week by John Hemming of the Liberal Democrats party.
"I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme," Hemming, who also serves as chair of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, told The Telegraph.