As you may have heard, Hungary’s senior home birth midwife, Ágnes Geréb, was arrested yesterday and taken into custody, while the people attending her home birth course were detained and questioned.
Home birth in Hungary has had a contested legal history. As recently as 1984, it was still an accepted medical practice, and somewhere in the past 20 years, it has become completely demonized, to the point where a midwife can be arrested for attending births at home. The home birth movement in Hungary has been demanding the creation of laws to regulate the work of home birth midwives, but this issue has been continually swept aside by all governments and health ministers. The situation has escalated to the point where now the police is dispatched along with the ambulance when medical assistance is called to a home birth, or when a home birth is transferred to a hospital.
Despite this hostile legal climate, a few intrepid midwives have been continuing to offer their services, knowing full well the risk of “being caught.” And Ágnes Geréb has taken on the public fight for home birth in Hungary. She has been threatened and her medical license (she is an obstetrician) has been stripped from her and then returned to her several times over. She has faced charges of practicing medicine without a license, reckless endangerment, and is even facing charges of manslaughter associated with the death of a six-month-old (!) baby. She has attended the births of over 2000 babies at home, and her mortality rate is well below those of hospitals. Her court trial has been fraught with “irregularities” with key parts of testimony mysteriously disappearing.
It has become increasingly obvious that the “establishment” as such wants to make home birth in Hungary impossible, and wants to make an example of Ágnes Geréb in particular.
Those of you who have given birth in other countries know that in many places, such as the UK, the US, Holland, Germany, and even in our neighboring Austria, home birth is regulated and accepted and even preferred and paid for by the national health care system. No home birth midwife would be arrested just for providing her services or making timely transfers to a hospital when necessary.
The situation in Hungary is untenable. It is a violation of women’s human rights to deprive them of the right to choose where and with whom they wish to give birth.
Join us in a peaceful demonstration TODAY at 4:30 pm at Arany János utca 6-8. in front of the Health Ministry. Let the Hungarian government know that you support women’s right to choose where and with whom to give birth!