“We just had to draw that line in the sand and say, because of the data, that we’ve become convinced we know it’s healthier for the baby and we know the mother wants what’s best for the baby,” said Welch. [emphasis mine]
If you read the above quote without the accompanying article, would you be incensed that this physician was implying he knows what’s best for you and your baby? I know I would. Is that not exactly what those of us who advocate for legal midwives, access to home births and mother’s rights are consistently fighting AGAINST? Did ACOG not release a statement last year with an eerily similar refrain?
Instead of anger, though, the quote was met with applause and tons of positive comments. Why, you ask? Because it refers to elective cesareans and inductions. The quote is from a post on abc15.com that has been floating around Facebook for a few days about an Arizona group of hospitals that have decided to ban elective cesareans and inductions. Many people are giving props to the docs for finally realizing the error of their ways and not sectioning women simply because they ask for it. However, after all that back-patting, turns out the group of hospitals aren’t banning elective cesareans and inductions completely, just the ones before 39weeks (unless, of course, there’s a “medical” reason).
While I applaud the idea that physicians, surgeons and hospitals might make an attempt at practicing evidence-based medicine, I can not support this initiative and still call myself an advocate for women. Now, before you start throwing rocks and calling me awful names, let’s take a minute to think about this. Also, keep in mind that this is my blog and I can spout my *opinion* whenever I feel like it. 😉
For me, supporting women’s options and rights are paramount to my birth work and advocacy. In keeping with that, I feel that my role is very clear…women should have the entire spectrum of options, even when I don’t agree with them. Would I ever choose to have a cesarean or be induced, especially before 39 weeks? Hell no! Do I think that it’s every woman’s right to make that decision for herself? YES!
Banning presumes that she is incapable of making a decision, so an outside “authority” must make the decision for her. When is this ever a good idea? In my opinion, NEVER. When women start losing the little autonomy they have, especially when it comes to pregnancy and birth, we are approaching what is called the “slippery slope.” Sure, it starts with a common sense ban on something that shouldn’t need a ban….but where does it end? Who’s to say that if this initiative caught on they would stop at <39wk. interventions? And whose science are they going to go on? If you look hard enough (and sometimes don’t follow the rules), you will almost always find at least one study to back up your argument. While I’m not at all suggesting that the data showing babies need to be in the womb AT LEAST 39 weeks is flawed in any way, we all know that there are studies claiming home births are dangerous; will those be used to ban home births in the future? What about water births? Women must be the ultimate decision makers.
Now, perhaps I’m a little gun-shy when it comes to birthing rights. I am a Missouri native and I was involved on the tail end of a 50-year-long battle to have legal access to home birth midwifery (up until 2008, non-nurse midwives here were felons). Seeing firsthand how hard it is to get back a right that’s been taken away has made me want to preserve any and all rights I possibly can.
But what about informed consent, you say? Surely a woman who knew the risks and effects of cesareans and inductions (which have a tendency to lead to cesareans) would choose not to have one, right? Wrong. Not every woman feels the same way about the ecstasy of giving birth in the way nature intended, hard as that may be to believe. In any case, if women aren’t getting correct and accurate information, banning is NOT the answer…education is!
So, Banner Health Hospitals, why not try these alternatives to stripping away women’s rights:
1. Educate the women. Offer classes on the risks associated with (any) cesareans and (any) inductions.
2. Have clear, concise and accurate informed consent/refusal forms.
3. Educate your physicians so they will be less likely to recommend and/or accept elective procedures.
4. Offer incentives for physicians with lower procedure rates.
5. Stop billing insurance companies for elective procedures or require a large portion of the fees up front. If nothing else, this would definitely get a dialogue started on why these procedures might not be a good idea.
If the end goal is truly about having healthy moms and babies, empowerment and respect for the mother is the only way to go. This will have an effect that reaches far beyond what any ban could ever do.