Psychologists say that there are five or six basic profiles for women who kill their own children.
Some women kill because they are jealous of their husbands or children. Others because they never wanted a child. Others are batterers who go too far. Some kill handicapped or ill children out of "mercy." About a third of the mothers who kill are depressed. Others are psychotic.
Whatever the reason, about 600 women in the United States kill their children each year.
While all the children suffer the same fate, some of the women are luckier than others.
Consider just two cases, one that received extensive national coverage and one that got extensive local coverage.
The national story is that of Andrea Yates who drowned her five children in the bathtub of her suburban Houston home last year and is now serving life in prison in Texas, eligible for parole in 40 years.
The local story is that of Annette Giancola, who drowned her three-year-old twin children in the bathtub of her Canfield home in 1997. Giancola was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has spent almost all of the last five years in mental institutions.
Out and about
The time that she wasn't in a hospital was spent in jail, for a short period after her arrest, and more recently on strictly supervised outings. Those outings are about to become more frequent and less supervised. She'll be accompanied not by a member of the hospital staff, but by a relative. Within the constraints of time allowed, she'll be able to move about Cuyahoga and adjoining counties. She's not allowed to return to Mahoning County, at least not now.
You would think that this would be the freedom allotted a model patient -- none dare call her prisoner -- but less than two years ago the county had to go to court because she objected to taking the medication doctors had prescribed for her.
Now, presumably because she is following doctors' orders, she's regaining some of her freedom.
Somewhere, there is an injustice -- either Texas is treating its mentally ill child killers too severely, or Ohio is treating its too leniently. We're inclined to side with Texas.
For some reason, killing one's own children is viewed differently from killing someone else's. Had Yates or Giancola picked children off the street to drown, would they have been spared the death penalty, regardless of claims of mental illness or depression? We suspect not.
Why is one child's life deliberately taken worth any less than another's?