Today there was this news about the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK saying that midwives would will test women at antenatal appointments and those with high carbon monoxide readings will be given advice on how to quit smoking. Of course, no NHS treatment is compulsory.
Compare this with women who will come for an abortion and are not given any advice about killing an alive and growing fetus.
Of course, both involve the autonomy of the mother on how to treat her own body, albeit there being a second life totally dependent on her.
Recently, I was appalled to read about how mothers could even opt out of breastfeeding if she felt that she does not feel doing so. And if she is given advice about the benefits of breastfeeding, that could amount to bullying from the nurses.
Consider the case of opting out of breastfeeding in a rural third world country. That would sound the death knell for the baby.
Pushing down formula feeds down the throat of the baby in lieu of breastfeeding without a proper counselling is something I find totally non-acceptable. I'm told that present formula feeds are more chemically consistent with breast milk than earlier years.
For a developing country, that's going to be really costly for the mother and I'm not sure how many towns would be able to stock them in their pharmacies. I remember one nursing staff of one of my previous work places who opted for formula feeds and ended up spending quite a lot that she found it difficult to provide for the needs of her family. This happened in spite of the hospital management giving her two additional half hour breaks to feed the baby (she lived in campus).
Of course, I agree about situations where we ultimately resort to formula feeds. But, these situations are quite rare. In our clinical practice at NJH, we've found it very difficult to convince families to provide formula feeds in the right amounts even when it is indicated for the baby.
Coming back to the issue of mother's smoking, there are children who are going to inhale the second hand smoke. Of course, the Institute is concerned about that too.
I'm sure that there would be people up in arms against the decision taken.
The silver lining is the fact that there are people out there who are not willing to accept the fact that families can turn a blind eye to the autonomy of a fetus once she's conceived. And of course, to a child who's growing up.