Failing women, one arrest at a time

In the off chance that you need more evidence that our current law enforcement system actually does more harm than good, here you go.

A 36-year-old woman was arrested yesterday after she tried to sell her newborn to an undercover officer for $25,000, according to Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney.

The woman, Yue Fan Chau, was arrested at New York Downtown Hospital after she falsified the birth certificate and tried to hand over the baby, a boy she had named Brian, to the undercover officer, investigators said. The police said Ms. Chau told them that her boyfriend had gone back to China and that she was destitute.

She was charged with abandonment of a child, tampering with public records, endangering the welfare of a child and felony violation of the state’s Social Services Law. If convicted, she faces up to seven years in prison.

This story made me furious. And I am probably supposed to be mad at the woman selling her baby. But I’m not. I’m angry at the law enforcement officials who had contact with this woman for almost a month and instead of working to help her, lured her into an arrest.

The woman claims that she was destitute. I imagine that she’s probably telling the truth, that she had no way of caring for her child and was absolutely desperate for money. She may have been drug-addicted, or homeless. Her having a doctor is not evidence to the contrary– it’s only evidence that she could once afford a doctor (you know, possibly prior to her boyfriend leaving the country). She may have been abused. It’s possible that she was forced into selling her child by a boyfriend, husband or pimp. Of all the possible scenarios, you know which one I find to be the most unbelievable? That she got pregnant and ended up carrying her pregnancy to term for the sole purpose of selling the child and making some money. And even if that scenario were true, I imagine that the woman in question would be in much greater need of therapy than jail time.

What could the law enforcement officials have done better? They could have informed her of safe surrender laws. They could have helped her arrange a proper adoption. They could have offered her drug treatment or shelter, if she needed it. They could have helped to set her up with counseling and public assistance for young mothers so that she could raise her child. In a worst case scenario, if the welfare of the child was of such deep concern, they could have temporarily taken her into custody until birth, while still offering all of the same above options. This last choice is by far my least favorite and I am very uncomfortable with it. But it’s still better than what was actually done.

In case you needed reminding, though, our legal system is in no way about actually helping people or trying to prevent crime through social change and providing assistance to potential criminals. It’s all about punishment for those who fail to live up to live up to white middle class standards, with absolutely no consideration for the circumstances involved. It’s about punishing poor pregnant women, drug addicts and petty thieves, particularly when they’re people of color, while letting free the white rapists, abusers and employers who can afford to pay their workers but choose to rip them off for thousands.

So who is to blame: the cops or the law? I’m not sure, but am convinced that neither has clean hands.

0 thoughts on “Failing women, one arrest at a time

  1. RachelPhilPa

    It’s all about punishment for those who fail to live up to live up to white middle class standards, with absolutely no consideration for the circumstances involved.

    I totally agree.

    As far as who to blame, ultimately, I think that patriarchy encourages, and depends on, authoritarian and controlling behavior. It seems that most cops – male cops, at least – become cops as a means to exercise their authoritarianism. Regardless of whether its the cops and/or the law that is the immediate problem, ultimately it will take massive changes in society for this crap to stop.


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