Freedom Center, Arise for Social Justice, OutNow Question PostPartum Screening Program

Submitted by lee on Thu, 01/21/2010 - 20:28

Dear MotherWoman,
We are writing to address our concern about your legislation on postpartum depression screenings. We propose that Motherwoman drop this legislation because we believe in the long-run it will do more harm than good.

Under the George Bush Jr administration there was an initiative called “The New Freedom Initiative” which proposed mandatory mental health screenings across the country. After this initiative was put on the table, the Freedom Center launched a campaign against these screenings because it became evident that the Bush Administration supported this program because it would bring huge financial benefit to the pharmaceutical companies. Attached is a piece entitled “Texas Attorney General Joins Whistleblower Lawsuit against J & J” ( that helps expose the corruption that is historically behind mental health screening campaigns. We also highly recommend that you also check out the article titled “National Plan For Universal Mental Health Screening: A Pharma Friendly Remedy for Social Problems.” This article can be found at

It is also important to understand that even if the proposed postpartum depression screening program is not as immediately corrupt as some of the screening programs in the past, the program is still likely to lead to an increase in postpartum depression diagnoses. These diagnoses risk being dangerous in many ways. Most people who receive psychiatric diagnoses receive psychiatric drug(s) shortly thereafter. These psychiatric drugs
may be ingested by the newborn baby via the breast milk. These drugs have *not* been tested on children at all. They certainly have not been tested on infants. In fact, many antidepressants are banned for use with children in different European countries. Many of these drugs are not even safe for adults. See the previously mentioned articles and also see the attached list of legal cases to learn more about some of these risks.

There is also a concern that having more people being officially diagnosed
with “postpartum depression” could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a person is having a hard time and is told that it is a disease of some sort, they are less likely to understand their experience as something natural or something that will pass.

We are also concerned that getting people diagnosed with “postpartum depression” will take away from understanding some of the social-economic conditions that play into why some people go through a difficult time
after giving birth. Poor people, people of color, queers, and non able bodied people are all more likely to be have less support from society at large as they venture into parenthood. Therefore it seems likely that oppressed people will more commonly be pathologized. A psychiatric diagnosis is individualized and often implies that the problem is the person’s to own or that it’s somehow inherent to their body rather than looking at issues of marginalization and/or oppression.

As we are sure you all know as a mothers support group, there are many reasons a person can have a hard time after giving birth. Birth itself can be traumatic, it can bring up issues of sexual abuse or of other
experiences of being violated. Furthermore, many mothers lose their jobs or lose significant pay during pregnancy or the postpartum time. The postpartum time is also potentially a time of significant self-sacrifice,
a time of isolation, a time of sleep-deprivation, a time when the body is less physically able, and a time of intense hormone changes.

We think it’s admirable that MotherWoman has support groups and other resources to help new parents during this potentially difficult time. It is our belief that it is absolutely essential to try to figure out how to get parents the most support during this time and we would love to work in alliance with you in promoting this support.

However, the screening campaign causes us grave concern. Please consider seriously its potential risks. We then could work together to bring alternative sustaining support to people dealing with difficult and/or painful postpartum periods.

Thank you for your time considering our thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Freedom Center, Northampton MA

Arise for Social Justice, Springfield, MA

OutNow Springfield, MA