Clemency for Hungarian homebirth midwife Ágnes Geréb
The case of Ágnes Geréb attracted international attention after she was prosecuted for helping women to give birth at home. Andrew Symon brings the story up to date.
Previous articles in this series (Symon 2010; 2012) have noted how women in some other countries, even within the European Union, do not enjoy the same legal rights and protections as women in the UK when it comes to maternity services. The case of the Hungarian midwife Ágnes Geréb has highlighted how state power can be used to restrict the availability of services, effectively denying women certain rights. A landmark ruling has recently been passed in this complex case.
Briefly, Ágnes Geréb was an experienced obstetrician who in 1989 decided to practise as a midwife, a decision she explained in a BBC interview (Thorpe, 2012). In addition to setting up a birth centre, she travelled extensively, gathering evidence on the safety of homebirth. Medical orthodoxy in Hungary held that childbirth should happen in hospital under the direct supervision of a doctor. A woman could not choose to give birth at home under medical supervision, and no licences were available for anyone else (such as an independent midwife) to assist.
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