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Judge: Mom Must Give Up Unborn Child

By Esther Pessin
Originally published in the New York Post, July 21, 1988

A pregnant Westchester woman has been ordered by a judge to give up her baby when it is born because she has abused 10 other children.

The woman, whose identity was being kept secret, went into labor late yesterday—even as last Friday's landmark decision was revealed.

Family Court Judge Louis Barone told the Post he decided to take away the baby because the mother had not changed her abusive ways despite losing her other children.

"There was a real fear she might abuse this kid. She has not made any progress over the years," the judge said.

Said Andrew Vachss, the state-appointed attorney for the baby: "This was a preemptive strike. We're attempting to break the cycle. We're giving the kid a chance the kid would not otherwise have."

The woman, a welfare mother, was described as a soft-spoken, beautiful, but troubled woman in her early 30's who was abused as a child.

According to Barone and Vachss, she had seven children by at least four men—two of whom she legally married. Three of the children taken from her care were stepchildren.

Three have since been adopted and another three are in the process of being adopted.

Some of the fathers were abusive drug addicts and drunkards, they noted.

One wrote a threatening letter to Barone and threw a Bible at him during a hearing, Barone told the Post.

Another kidnapped one of the children at gunpoint—and the woman says she has never heard from them again, Vachss said. He said the father of the new baby is a crack dealer whose whereabouts are unknown.

The woman, who currently lives in a Westchester motel, has a criminal record. The last of her children was taken away from her four years ago.

Although she has had a dozen years of counseling, she beat the kids with "whatever was at hand," breaking their bones with ashtrays and lamps, and verbally abusing them, Vachss charged.

"It's inevitable this child would be abused," he concluded.

Sadly, she told authorities she keeps having children because "I need someone to love," Vachss recalled.

"It's a sad situation for this woman," said her lawyer, Jeffrey Salant. "Because of the social atmosphere, the judges are overly conservative. She wanted to have another opportunity with this baby. They could have given her a chance."

Legal experts say this is one of the first times the state has sued on behalf of an unborn child not endangered by the mother's behavior during pregnancy, but because of her past history.

Once she gives birth, however, the woman will be allowed to try to prove at a trial that she has changed and now can care for the child.

But Vachss believes the new baby will never be returned to her. "It's a toxic environment," he told the Post.

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