In an unmistakably insecure and aggressive move, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution at its annual meeting last weekend to introduce legislation outlawing home birth – according to The Big Push for Midwives.
According to the hard-working women of The Big Push for Midwives campaign, faced with the sisyphean task of convincing the American mainstream medical establishment that midwifery is a viable option for birthing women:
"It’s unclear what penalties the AMA will seek to impose on women who choose to give birth at home, either for religious, cultural or financial reasons-or just because they didn’t make it to the hospital in time," said Susan Jenkins, Legal Counsel for The Big Push for Midwives 2008 campaign. "What we do know, however, is that any state that enacts such a law will immediately find itself in court, since a law dictating where a woman must give birth would be a clear violation of fundamental rights to privacy and other freedoms currently protected by the U.S. Constitution."
In other words, advocating for legislation of this kind has the eery ring of familiarity. Legislative attempts at "criminalizing motherhood" have at their core coercive control over pregnancy and childbirth. Regina McKnight was recently released from jail after a judge overturned her homicide conviction for giving birth to a stillborn baby.
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Likewise, Colorado’s ballot initiative in support of a "personhood amendment" would have untold consequences for pregnant women who accidentally or otherwise miscarry a pregnancy. If a fertilized egg is conferred "personhood" status why would a miscarriage not be investigated as potential murder?
The legal issues surrounding "fundamental rights to privacy" also, of
course, reverberate throughout the discussions around Roe v. Wade and a
woman’s right to have an abortion in this country. Those who fight
rigorously to strip away womens’ legal right to an abortion somehow
seem to skirt the issue of what might happen to a woman if she does
choose to access an illegal abortion.
What the AMA’s resolution and these other kinds of potential and actual legislation do is to open the door to penalizing motherhood, in effect. Because most of these legislative attempts do not directly address the issue, they leave the door dangerously open to criminalizing women for making the decisions they feel are best for themselves, their fetuses and their families.
Proposing this kind of legislation would also force women to birth in government-approved settings, a scenario that seems almost unbelievable. According to the Big Push for MIdwives:
Until the AMA proposed ‘Resolution 205 on Home Deliveries,’ no state had considered legislation forcing women to deliver their babies in the hospital or limiting the choice of birth setting. Instead, states have regulated the types of midwives that may legally provide care. Currently, 22 states already license and regulate CPMs, who specialize in out-of-hospital maternity care and have received extensive training to qualify as experts in the types of risk assessment and preventive care necessary for safe and high-quality care for women who choose give birth at home. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), who are trained primarily as hospital-based providers, are licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The resolution did not offer any science-based information for the AMA’s anti-midwife or anti-home birth position.
Steff Hedenkamp, Communications Coordinator for The Big Push for Midwives says, "Maternity care is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. So it’s no surprise to see the AMA join the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in its ongoing fight to corner the market and ensure that the only midwives able to practice legally are hospital-based midwives forced to practice under physician control. I will say, though, that I’m shocked to learn that the AMA is taking this turf battle to the next level by setting the stage for outlawing home birth itself-a direct attack on those families who choose home birth, who could be subject to criminal prosecution if the AMA has its way."
If you’d like to help The Big Push for Midwives fight this please visit their web site and push back against attempts to "deny American families access to safe and legal midwifery care."
Update, 2:45pm, EDT: Wanted – Ricki Lake! Apparently the AMA has issued Resolution 205 partially in response to none other than Ricki Lake and her campaign to promote midwifery and natural childbirth as a safe option for healthy women via her documentary, The Business of Being Born. Safe Birth Ohio notes that, in Britain, mainstream medical associations like the Royal College of Gynecologists have come to very different conclusions about the safety of home birth as an option for healthy, laboring women. And, yet, the AMA has swung the pendulum in the opposite direction deciding homebirth should be outlawed and that Ricki Lake is dangerous to mamas everywhere.