Archive for October, 2009

The Real Pre-existing Condition…

Women denied health insurance because they’ve been raped, because of domestic violence, because they’ve had a C-section… Insurers telling women who’ve given birth by cesarean, “Alright, we’ll cover you–but only if you get sterilized.” Parents denied coverage for their children because they’re too big, too small, because they hold their breath …(?!?) It sounds too outrageous/absurd/illegal to believe, but listen to the testimony of Peggy Robertson (courtesy of the Service Employees International Union’s campaign for healthcare reform):

Here Robertson illustrates the awful bind so many women are in: No hospital will take her for VBAC, she doesn’t want another cesarean, she feels she has no choice but to have one, yet she can’t afford it. Her health insurer’s answer to this? Don’t have any more children. So much for reproductive choice.

RH Reality Check‘s Jodi Jacobson has a novel idea: “I say the insurance industry as currently constructed is too sick to function and should be declared a national ‘pre-existing’ condition of which we should rid ourselves permanently.”

Dr. Northrup’s Rx: Take Back Your “Right to Birth Right”

With the historic news that a majority of the U.S. workforce is now female, it’s clear that American women have more power than ever before, says OB/GYN and bestselling author Christiane Northrup, MD. But is that power reflected in the healthcare available to women? No, she writes in an essay for Huffington Post, especially when it comes to childbirth:

“Our so-called healthcare system, which is a direct reflection of the beliefs of our culture, sees the female body and its processes (like labor) as an accident waiting to happen…The truth is that labor and birth need not be the emergencies we think they are. And the medicalization of birth actually does more harm than good.”

Northrup criticizes the rising rates of cesarean section and labor induction, and cites the rising maternal death rate. “Studies have repeatedly shown that in healthy mothers with no risk factors, home birth is as safe as hospital birth. Increasingly, savvy women who trust their ability to birth normally [and, we should add, who have the resources] are opting to avoid the hospital altogether.”


Northrup concludes the essay with a call to action: “When it comes to pregnancy and birth, we as a culture and as individuals need to wake up and claim our right to literally birth right!”


“Enter My Body Without Permission, Sounds Like Rape to Me”

In the latest example of a woman reclaiming her birth rights, Joy Szabo (left) of Page, Arizona, is refusing to have the cesarean section that Page Hospital is ordering. Szabo had her 1st child vaginally. Her 2nd child was delivered via emergency cesarean at Page — and she was very thankful for it. She had her 3rd vaginally (VBAC) on the same L&D ward. But now, because the hospital has changed its “policy,” it has told Szabo that VBAC is no longer allowed, and that her only option is a cesarean. Page Hospital’s CEO Sandy Haryasz (, 928-645-2424) even threatened legal action. “I asked Sandy what would happen if I just showed up refusing a C-section and she said they would obtain a court order,” Szabo told the Lake Powell Chronicle. “They don’t want to allow VBACs because she said they aren’t equipped for emergency C-sections, but if they can’t do emergency C-sections, they shouldn’t be having labor and delivery at all. That’s why women go to the hospital to have their babies — in case there is an emergency.”

Since coverage in the Chronicle and on CNN, the hospital has backed off the court bullying, but it is still deferring to its “No VBAC” policy. Szabo’s doctor supports VBAC, in theory, but told her he’s powerless. “He was wringing his hands, and said he would have to do [a cesarean] if the hospital told him he had to,” Szabo wrote in an ICAN blog post. “He told me he would lose his licence if he didn’t. I have looked into it and have yet to find where doctors lose their licence for having ethics. But it was clear to me that I was not safe in this hospital, and if I step foot in the building, I would have a cesarean, and my doctor would do it while I scream in protest.”

The closest hospital Szabo can find to support her choice is in Phoenix, 350 miles away. In order to avoid surgery, she will leave her family in mid-November and rent an apartment in Phoenix until she goes into labor. Her husband probably won’t make the birth. In the United States, it is illegal, unconstitutional, and medically unethical to force a competent adult to have surgery for any reason. And yet, some 800 hospitals officially “ban” VBAC and another 600 don’t have a single provider willing to attend, forcing hundreds of thousands of women into this situation every year.