- (Photo: Reuters)
Jodi Ferris, a homeschooling mom who had her newborn baby seized by Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania, spoke about her ordeal for Home School Legal Defense Association's podcast, "Home School Heartbeat."
"The first few minutes at the hospital we were in the same room, but they wouldn't let me see her," Ferris recalled. "And when they took her out of the room, they wouldn't tell me where they were taking her."
Ferris was interviewed by Michael Farris, HSLDA founder and chairman. HSLDA is representing Ferris in a civil lawsuit against the hospital.
The incident occurred in June 2010 and the Ferrises filed suit in March 2012. In Decdember 2012, a judge declined the hospital's request to dismiss the suit and allowed the case to move forward.
Ferris had planned to deliver her baby at home with a midwife. She went into labor early and called an ambulance. The baby was delivered in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
A social worker seized the baby hours after she was born. Ferris was then forced to leave the hospital. She slept that night in her car in a nearby shopping plaza parking lot so that she could return every few hours to breastfeed, which was the only time she was allowed to see her baby. After a custody hearing the next morning, the Ferris baby was returned to her parents.
"She had spent her entire life up to that point inside of me," Ferris explained, "and I felt responsible for making sure that she was okay and that she had someone with her to love her and to welcome her into the world. It was heartbreaking to have people prevent me from doing that for her. And, as the day went on, things just got more and more confusing."
Why the baby was seized is unclear. Some reports suggest it was because the Ferrises refused to approve an immediate Hepatitis B vaccination. Ferris claimed that the hospital staff appeared uncomfortable with the many questions they were asking. At one point, her baby was given an injection. When she asked what the injection was, hospital staff did not provide a clear answer. The Ferrises also requested that they be allowed to get a second opinion from a different medical facility, but their request was denied. The hospital may have also been uncomfortable with the fact that the Ferrises had initially opted for a midwife rather than a hospital birth.
In a statement after the suit was filed, the hospital said, "facts will show that the care afforded the Ferrises was medically and legally appropriate, and that the personal rights of the family were respected at all times while under our care."
Ferris described the hospital's attitude as, "we're the experts, so just do what we tell you."
In the interview, Ferris said that she was told that her baby was taken away because she was sick. That turned out to be a lie, she claims. After comparing notes with her husband, she realized that at the time her baby was supposedly getting treatment for a serious illness, her baby was actually getting a bath with her husband present.
"As a mom, my concern isn't about my being comfortable," Ferris added, "but about my child's needs being met, and about my ability to make responsible decisions to meet those needs. The doctors and nurses needed to recognize that when parental consent is required, it's required because parents are responsible for making those decisions."