House-arrested home-birth advocate speaks out against new home birth rules
Agnes Gereb, a midwife who is serving a sentence under house arrest on two counts of professional negligence in connection with supervising homebirths which ended in death and disability, criticised on Monday the governments new regulations on the practice, insisting that the rules implied that mothers do not know what is good for their children and only doctors are competent in making decisions.
In a video message sent to a conference exploring how women in Hungary can be encouraged to have more children, Gereb said the new rules made homebirths a fee-paying service which restricted the practice to people who can pay for it. This is exactly a worry that critics of homebirths originally put forward as a reason to ban it.
She said the advisors involved in the preparation of the new regulations had entirely disregarded international statistics showing that homebirths are not more dangerous than ones carried out in hospital. According to Gereb, the regulations are "saturated by efforts" to "protect" people from homebirths.
The new regulations must have been prepared by people who have never actually seen a one, she said.
Rules on homebirths were changed in a decree enforced from April 2011, easing the ban by allowing hospital doctors to oversee homebirths. Activists have said the new rules fail to work in practice because doctors are not keen on carrying out homebirths, and midwives who are in favour of the practice are banned from doing so.
In February this year, the court of appeals of Budapest found Gereb guilty of professional negligence, causing death on one account and a permanent disability on another. The court gave her a two-year prison sentence in a non-appealable ruling, augmenting a preliminary sentence by excluding the option of release on probation, and increasing a five-year ban on assisting births to ten years.
Gereb, who was sentenced in the first instance in March 2011, was denied clemency by former President Pal Schmitt last June. She has been in house arrest since December 2010.