A Florida mom’s strict vegan diet allegedly left her newborn grossly underweight and now her story is the target for intense scrutiny. The Huffington Post reports that Sarah Markham faces criminal charges associated with the neglect of her very young infant, but her attorney says that Florida authorities and CPS workers have violated her rights as a mother. Her attorney is also someone with a lot of experience prosecuting high profile court cases. After all, he helped keep George Zimmerman out of prison. Apparently the Florida attorney has a penchant for polarizing cases that go viral in the media.
Mark O’Mara is representing the vegan mom and he evidently supports the woman’s decision to keep her newborn infant off of any sustenance derived from animals or animal by-products. He also had a mouthful to say about the neglect charges against her.
“It’s absurd. It’s a mom trying to do the best she can, acting as a vegan which she has the entire right to do taking care of her child. They’ve [CPS] kept a child away from [his] mom.”
It should be noted that WKMG out of Orlando, Florida originally reported that there was more to this case than a simple disagreement over milk. In fact, Markham allegedly rejected the assistance of medical professionals and refused to take the newborn to the hospital after it was found that he was malnourished, underweight and dehydrated. The cause behind the child’s condition was the mother’s refusal to give him real milk or formula, instead opting for the vegan choice of a soy formula.
Sarah Markham reportedly hid in her apartment with her infant and refused to answer the door when police arrived. After police were eventually able to gain entry, she refused to cooperate, claiming that she wanted “a second opinion” by taking her child to a natural vegan doctor. She also tried to argue against the diagnosis that her newborn son was dehydrated and declared that she wanted to seek faith healing options for the lad. The mother is reportedly a Seventh Day Adventist.
The issue escalated when the mother first convinced police that she would take her child to the hospital where he would be treated for the undernourishment that her strict dietary rules caused, but she then backed out of her obligation and was quickly placed under arrest. Now the child is in the custody of the state of Florida and Markham is given only supervised visits. Mark O’Mara is outraged for his client and vows to fight for her rights as a vegan mother to care for her child in a way that she sees fit.
Police have claimed that Markham had a “carefree attitude” while en route to the police department where she was booked and then later released on bail. However, there aren’t any clarifications to accompany this vague and opinionated claim. Are Florida authorities publicly demonizing this mother to sway public opinion about her? The fact that she’s a vegan mother who was seeking faith healing options for her malnourished baby is also enough to draw criticism from the public as this story goes viral. With the police claiming that she was acting “carefree” after her child was taken away from her, this leaves room for a judgmental public to speculate that she may have been neglecting her newborn on purpose but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support this yet.
There is evidence, however, that a vegan diet can be safe and healthy for a newborn infant, but only under ideal circumstances. The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health recommends that soy based formulas not be used as a primary formula for infants until after one year of age. It’s recommended that vegan women still breastfeed their infants, and even then the babies may need supplements to keep them healthy. In other words, veganism works for grown-ups but it’s really not practical for a developing newborn infant. Sarah Markham may have had good intentions by keeping her infant on soy formula, but in the end the health of her son has suffered severely. At this point it’s impossible to tell whether she was being purposely neglectful or simply ignorant.
[Photo Credit: FDLE mugshot/Sarah Markham]