Live Long and Prosper
A Canadian woman who pleaded guilty to killing her newborn baby will have to take a pregnancy test twice a year as part of her sentence, in what is being described as the first decision of its kind in Canada.
The court heard that the 43-year-old woman from Montreal, whose name is being withheld to protect her children, gave birth at home in 2016 to her fourth child. She had not realised she was pregnant.
Her partner found the woman in their bathtub, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The baby appeared to have been wounded and had been placed in a plastic bag. After three days in the hospital, the baby died from asphyxiation.
The mother was later diagnosed with “non-psychotic pregnancy denial” and dissociative amnesia. She pleaded guilty to one count of infanticide in November.
On Thursday, a Quebec court judge handed down a 20-month sentence of house arrest as well as three years of probation. The judge also ordered the woman to submit the results of her pregnancy tests to her supervising officer while under house arrest and then to her probation officers for three years.
The condition – believed to be the first time in Canada that a judge has ordered pregnancy tests – was agreed to by both the defence and prosecution, her lawyer told reporters.
“In this particular case, I find that all the circumstances called for it, and my client accepted it,” said Joseph La Leggia. The woman would not be prevented from having another baby, he added, but the tests ensure that “there will be no more denial of pregnancy as there was the last time”.
The case marked the second time in recent years that the woman had failed to realise she was pregnant. The first time she found out she was 32 weeks pregnant after an injury forced her to visit a hospital, according to the Montreal Gazette. Her pregnancy was subsequently monitored and the baby was not harmed.
Prosecutors had argued that sending the mother to prison would penalise her three children by depriving them of their mother. Citing a report from youth protection authorities, the judge noted that the woman posed no risk to her other children.
“The accused is described as a gentle, patient and responsible mother,” said judge Linda Despots. “Despite the amnesia, she feels a strong sense of guilt. She expresses great suffering and describes the situation as a tragedy.”