Could assisting a homebirth lead to prison?
In January, midwife and obstetrician Ágnes Geréb lost an appeal against the Hungarian Supreme Court, which could see her sent to prison for assisting homebirths. Paul Golden explains
The case of Ágnes Geréb has lessons for us all. Dr Geréb is a Hungarian midwife and obstetrician who has focused on listening to women and providing for their needs by enabling them to give birth at home. Like many countries, Hungary does not encourage homebirths, as they take place outside of the control of the hospital and the regulators. According to the Hungarian constitution, women have the right to give birth at home, but the Hungarian public health authority prevents this in practice by refusing to issue licenses to independent midwives (Hill, 2010). As a result, women are unable to claim their legal rights, and midwives who assist homebirths, such as Dr Geréb, are doing so illegally.
In 2010, Anna Ternovszky, who wanted to give birth at home with Dr Geréb's help, challenged Hungary at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), asserting that a woman has a right to choose how and where to give birth. She won, and the ECHR ruling stated that each country must provide homebirth as a realistic option for women.
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