Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Take Birth Back"

There's a new movie coming to town, courtesy of Christin Lott, Greenhouse Birth Center board member, local doula, and natural childbirth advocate.  The movie is entitled "One World Birth", and you can visit the link to view the trailer.  In essence the trailer sends the message that outlawing home birth takes away our freedom.  It further explains that doctors use too many interventions and don't "trust the physiological processes of birth to take place."   The obvious call to action is that women should, "take birth back". 

Christin invited the public to view the video with her on September 20th, by saying, "
I think the film hits home and is so fitting for the kinds of things going on right now in our area."  It is the implication that what is happening in our own community (and furthermore the state) relates to loss of freedom to have a home birth, that is so outrageous.  In fact, it's so outrageous that it seems more like fear mongering.  No one in Michigan is saying or has said that home birth should be outlawed.  People in Michigan are saying that if home birth is to remain an reliable option for the women of this state (which we all want to see happen), we have a right to rely a competent professional to assist us. We have a right to be protected from midwives who practice negligently, and to further hold them accountable for their actions. We have a right to demand that the professional use of the word "midwife" very clearly mean something by definition, minimum standard for education, and scope of practice if they are to hold a state issued license.  

Do women have a freedom to choose where to give birth, and should it be protected?  Absolutely.  Every legislator I have talked to in the Michigan House and Senate has agreed on that point.  Never once have I heard the suggestion that home birth be outlawed.  Does that mean there should be no expectations or guidelines for the people who practice midwifery?  Does it mean that women of this state should be subject to dangerous practices, or that they shouldn't stand up for their families when negligence has occurred?  No.  

What I cannot figure out is why those who are so protective of their home birth rights, don't expect more of the midwives that serve them.  What is there to lose by setting standards, by raising the bar to make home birth as safe as it can possibly be?  What is wrong with expecting ethical, high-quality care, and holding accountable those who do not practice as such? Would these actions not improve the quality and safety of home birth? 

I, for one, do not buy the comparison to Hungary, where Agnes Gereb is under house arrest for attending home births, (home birth is illegal there) to Michigan, or the US for that matter.  In no US state (to my knowledge) is home birth considered illegal.  Some midwives have been arrested in states like Indiana for practicing without a license, because that state has determined that a midwife must be a licensed care giver with specific education and skills before attending a home birth.  In the case of Ireena Kesslar from Indiana, who allowed her license to lapse, yet continued to deliver babies, did she not break the law?  The standard has been established and for good reason.  In other instances, midwives in the US have been arrested for involuntary manslaughter, and most recently for child abuse.  If you read the cases, every single one is full of grossly negligent circumstances.   

At what point do supporters of midwifery and home birth recognize that midwives are not infallible?  When do they stand up and demand safer practices among their peers, their "sisters", their "beloveds"?  When do they work to protect the freedom of choosing a home birth, by improving its merit, integrity, and safety?  That's when birth will be "taken back".   Hospitals are not the enemy.  I know many hospitals and doctors across this country who are embracing excellence in midwifery, who work alongside midwives, and who are supporting physiological processes very well.  Instead of spreading political fear, perhaps we should get to work at making home birth as safe as it can possibly be.  The problem is that first we have to acknowledge the dangers, the unethical practices, the dark spots, and for some that's nearly impossible.  Until we do, birth will largely remain in hospitals.  A profession cannot gain respect effectively without actually practicing professionally as a whole.  The argument implied by Ms. Lott, and this film, is self defeating.   

When Trusting Birth Goes Wrong
Improve Birth Rally

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