As if plummeting fertility rates across the West wasn’t enough, now you can add an epidemic of infanticide to the mix. Barack Obama said he did not want his daughter “punished with a baby.” His choice of words was revealing. Parenthood simply does not mesh well with our highly individualistic, career-driven society. I know these are sick women, but I do believe you can read a society by the nature of its pathologies.
Why Are French Women Killing Their Babies?
The question is as horrifying as it is important to ask: Why are a rising number of French women killing their newborn babies? Finding the answer has become a matter of urgency following the discovery on Wednesday of eight infants allegedly smothered to death and buried by their mother in northern France. And with that case marking at least the fifth instance of multiple infanticide reported in France since 2003, it has become vital for the nation to confront the phenomenon that appears to be behind it all: a mental condition known as pregnancy denial.
This latest case of newborn murder in France was uncovered in the northern town of Villiers-au-Tertre, after eight tiny bodies were found buried in the gardens of two separate homes. Six of the cadavers were unearthed on July 29 by police at the house of Dominique Cottrez, 45, and her husband Pierre-Marie, 47. Investigators searched their home after the resident of a house previously owned by Dominique’s parents turned up two tiny bodies on July 24 while digging a pool in the backyard. According to the French prosecutor leading the inquiry in the town, a short distance south of Lille, Dominique has admitted to hiding her pregnancies — and the killings of her babies — from her husband, whom police describe as being “dumbstruck” by the revelations. Dominique was charged for the murders; Pierre-Marie has been cleared of wrongdoing and released but could yet become a subject of investigation.
The case in Villiers-au-Tertre is only the most recent example of a father of slain babies being apparently unaware of his wife’s pregnancies. Four other such cases since 2003 include that of Véronique Courjault, 42, who was convicted in June 2009 of killing three of her newborns — two of whom she hid in a freezer and were later discovered by her husband. And this past March, Céline Lesage, 38, was found guilty of murdering six of her babies after she hid her pregnancies from the men who had fathered them. Both women were sentenced to prison — Courjault for eight years and Lesage for 15.
Experts explained those cases as resulting from pregnancy denial, an often misunderstood and minimized condition. According to Michel Delcroix, a former gynecologist who served as a court expert in the Courjault trial and others involving pregnancy issues, pregnancy denial is a quasi-schizophrenic condition in which women either don’t realize or cannot accept that they are with child — not even enough to have an abortion. Whether these women are afflicted with the condition before they deliver or as they’re suddenly giving birth, Delcroix explains, the psychological denial is so strong that they refuse to believe they’re pregnant even when the reality confronts them.
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