Christian couple Angela and Brian Bougher of Chicago were excited to welcome their fifth child into the world, but their happy family moment didn’t last long after the couple declined the vitamin K shot. In response, a nurse immediately took their newborn baby away and the parents were put under investigation by the state for “medical neglect” in a staggering overreach of parental rights.
For those that don’t know, the vitamin K shot is given to newborns in the first hour or so after birth. Since babies are born with only a small amount of vitamin K, it has become standard practice to administer the shot to all newborns. The shot helps protect against a condition called vitamin K deficiency bleeding by supporting the baby’s blood clotting abilities. It is a rare complication that can happen in the first months of life, but doctors have been administering the shot since the 1960s and consider it both harmless and effective.
But for the Bougher family, it just wasn’t something they wanted for their children. The Christian couples believes that “God’s creation isn’t automatically deficient or flawed at birth” and the shot is unnecessary. The Bougher’s have a right to their beliefs, and if they were fully informed of the risks then they should be able to decline. The state of Illinois didn’t see it that way.
Instead, in the moments after birth, a nurse told the Bougher’s that their newborn daughter was being taken away and they were being investigated for “medical neglect.” It took 12 hours to get their daughter back. It’s debatable whether the logic of Bougher’s decision is sound—however, medical professionals should know that the first moments of life are crucial to both mother and child. To remove a child for such a reason is a severe overreach of the state’s responsibility to protect children from neglectful parents.
The family’s pain did not stop there. Later the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had law enforcement officers make an unannounced visit the Bougher’s home to investigate and determine if any of their other four children were being “neglected.” The Bougher’s are not the only family that has had to endure this trauma.
James and Courtney Holdermann had a similar experience. The couple were put under investigation for five weeks after refusing the vitamin K shot and other newborn practices, like a blood screening and application of eye ointment.
Thankfully, DCFS has adjusted its policy but sometimes arguments still breakout in the delivery room over the shot. Danielle Anderson was told by her doctor that the hospital “would take away her baby” if she refused the shot. The doctor even came to her room with hospital security at one point to forcefully remove her child, but Anderson called the police. The officers told the doctor to stop pressuring her and Anderson left the hospital later that day.
Several of these families have now filed a lawsuit against local hospitals and the Illinois DPSF. They also want a court order to stop hospitals and doctors from harassing patients over the medical decisions, which has continued to happen despite the policy change. Three months after the change, DCFS hotline received 25 calls about parents denying the vitamin K shot and opened 15 new cases of alleged neglect.
It’s disappointing to see this level of government interference happening in the United States. There are children that need protection from difficult and sometimes dangerous family situations but denying a vitamin K shot doesn’t seem to rise to that occasion. It’s reminiscent of Norway’s extremely controversial child protective service Barnevernet, which has removed children from parent’s homes for a variety of often arbitrary reasons.
For example, the Norwegian government removed the children from the home of one Christian family over concerns that the children were being “indoctrinated” with Christian beliefs. An odd complaint from a supposedly Christian country. Some of these parents have limited or no contact with their children for years, and sometimes children are adopted by families without the birth parents’ consent. It’s gotten so bad that Poland actually offered one woman and her child asylum after a mother was falsely accused of drug abuse by a former partner.
When a government adopts a more socialized system and expands the welfare state, children are no longer the responsibility of the parents but of the state. That’s what’s happened in Norway, and these cases in Chicago are an echo of that mentality. If the state’s interest is deemed to supersede the rights of the parents, it seemingly becomes appropriate to remove a child without thought to the damage that it can cause.
That is a dangerous precedent.