Melbourne Doula

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Marsden Wagner: Australia does not want an international outcry against unjustified medical dominance

This is an email Wagner wrote in recent weeks to birth activist Sarah Langford:

“To all those in Australia concerned with maternity services:

Childbirth is not a medical procedure, it is a normal part of the life cycle and belongs to women and their families, not to doctors nor hospitals nor the government. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that planned out-of-hospital birth attended by a midwife is an absolutely safe choice for all low-risk pregnant women---women without any serious medical problems. To in any way limit or forbid the choice of out-of-hospital birth or the training and ability to practice of midwives willing to attend out-of-hospital births is to deny Australians the freedom to control their own lives and is to fail to honor the central importance of family values in Australia.

In the 1980’s the German organization of obstetricians and gynecologists tried to get a national law forbidding planned out-of-hospital birth. The German women rose up and fought against it, there was an international outcry and the effort of the doctors failed and since then there has been a vast effort to promote out-of-hospital birth centers, increasing from one to the present over 100 such centers, all using midwives.

In the 1990’s the Hungarian organization of obstetricians and gynecologists tried to get their government to forbid planned out-of-hospital birth. The Hungarian women rose up and there was an international outcry and the effort of the doctors failed.

In the last decade, the government of Brazil tried to lower their very high caesarean section rate through working with the doctors and hospitals. When this did not succeed, the government of Brazil started up a national network of out-of-hospital birth centers staffed by midwives which are very popular and have quite reasonable caesarean section rates.

Efforts by doctors in Australia to prevent or limit in any way the option of planned home birth attended by midwives by completely falsely claiming, without any scientific evidence, that planned out-of-hospital is unsafe, will ultimately fail as the people of Australia cannot be fooled all the time and value their freedom too highly and Australia does not want an international outcry against them and to be seen as unable to prevent unjustified medical dominance of normal family life.”

- Marsden Wagner, M.D., M.S., for 15 years a Director of Women’s and Children’s Health, World Health Organization.

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