Agnes Gereb taken to court for championing home births

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An emotive article depicting the plight of a "midwife" who is thrown into jail for assisting at home births:

Twenty minutes after the expectant mother went into labour, the police were knocking at the door. While mother and child were taken to hospital and treated well, the midwife at the birthing centre was thrown in jail. Dr Agnes Gereb is now being kept in maximum security conditions in a Budapest prison, facing a five-year prison sentence.

Gereb ... a highly experienced gynaecologist, midwife and internationally recognised home birth expert ... has successfully helped deliver 3,500 babies at home. But her reputation means nothing to the authorities in Hungary, a country that has, campaigners say, relentlessly pushed to criminalise home births and make hospital deliveries compulsory.

In the hours after her arrest on 5 October, Gereb was subjected to intense interrogation before being called to a closed court at 10pm. Held for a further week without charge, she finally appeared in an open court on 12 October, shackled in leg chains and handcuffs, accused of negligent malpractice. She also faces several other charges, including one for manslaughter relating to an earlier home birth when a baby died after a difficult labour.

Gereb's is the story of home birthing in modern Hungary and has sparked international outrage. A hero to women across Hungary, she has dedicated the past 30 years to defending the right of mothers to choose their birthing experience.

Her arrest is, say her supporters, the "logical climax of [the state's] campaign of vilification and criminalisation" of those who support a mother's right to have a non-hospital birth.

... In addition to the most recent case, Gereb is facing four other criminal charges. Two involved births where postpartum haemorrhage was greater than normal – a fairly common occurence in obstetrical practice. In both cases, the mothers and babies were discharged from hospital after a few hours. The other two cases are more serious: one concerning an infant who died as a result of shoulder dystocia and the other a twin who suffered a lack of oxygen at birth and died seven months later. Only the parents of the child who died from shoulder dystocia are pressing charges. The others all support Gereb ...

The article suggests that Agnes is the primary promoter of homebirths in Hungary, and that since homebirth is not a supported option (supported by obstetricians), she has been vilified. However, the truth is that this case is not about homebirth or its legality or the rights of women to access homebirth care. Gereb is not a registered midwife in hungary; she is an obstetrician, and a de-registered one at that. She has not qualified and is not registered as a midwife, but had provided care to women giving birth at home. This is clearly illegal in Hungary as she is not a midwife and is not allowed to practise obstetrics. All health practitioners have to have insurance to practice in Hungary, and as an unregistered practitioner, she would not have had access to insurance. The cases against her relate to poor outcomes in homebirths that she had attended, where the outcome was attributed to a poor standard of care rather than "bad luck".

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448