Through a variety of mechanisms, women who want to have a vaginal birth after a previous cesarean section ("VBAC") are finding that this option is foreclosed, and their ability to exercise their right to informed medical decision-making limited or denied altogether. Some women have effectively or literally been forced to have unnecessary surgery. In one case police officers actually entered the home of a woman in labor, took her into custody, forced her to return to a hospital, and made her undergo a cesarean section against her will and without medical indication. As a USA Today story on VBACs reported, other women have been forced to travel long distances from their family and doctor in order to attempt vaginal birth at a facility that supports them. And still others have been left with home birth, often without support from a health care professional, as their only way of avoiding a c-section that they in fact did not want or need.
(A cesarean section is a surgical termination to pregnancy intended for use when natural childbirth complications ensue. Vaginal birth, even after a prior cesarean section, is a normal physiological process; it is not a procedure.)
We are happy to report that grassroots activist Barbara Stratton, president of the Baltimore chapter of the International Caesarean Awareness Network, was successful in getting a local hospital to change its policies. Banned for nearly two years, the local newspaper reports that as a result of Ms. Stratton's effort, "vaginal births after Caesarean sections (VBACs) are back at Frederick Memorial Hospital." This victory comes at a time when mainstream media is reporting research that confirms the saftey and value of VBAC. According to Ms. Stratton, action, such as a rally at the hospital that she co-organized with Robin O'brien in November of 2004, played a key role in leading to their eventual success in reversing the hospital's policy.
Organizations including the International Caesarean Awareness Network and the MergerWatch Projectcan attest to the fact that more and more women are finding that their reproductive health care decisions are being limited by hospital policies, state action, and religious doctrine.
Congratulations to Ms. Stratton for her successful efforts and model grassroots activism!