"Not In My State!"

How one woman became a CHILDBIRTH ACTIVIST

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More than 300 hospitals in the United States do not allow women to choose to have a vaginal birth if they have previously had a Cesarean section (VBAC), despite the facts that the option is very low-risk and that Cesareans carry their own set of dangers. As a woman with a previous Cesarean myself, I feel strongly that all women should be given information on the risks and benefits of VBAC and should be allowed to make their own decisions.

In Maryland, where I live, Frederick Memorial Hospital announced a ban on VBACs in August 2004. My first reaction was, "Not in my state!" Birth activist Robin O'Brien and I quickly co-organized a rally that was held in November of that year. We began at a park near the hospital, then marched around the hospital itself while chanting and carrying signs. The event attracted a lot of local media attention. I contacted The New York Times, which published a front-page story on the nationwide problem of the bans. A day after that article hit, the chief obstetrician at Frederick Memorial was invited on the Today show to debate the president of the International Cesarean Awareness Network. USA Today and The Washington Post also eventually did lengthy stories on the issue.

After the rally, I continued to apply pressure to the hospital through the media and government agencies. In August 2006, Frederick Memorial Hospital reversed its ban, citing "community pressure" as the reason. Now, individual doctors can decide whether to offer VBAC, and most do.

Since the rally, I have been working to reverse the bans nationwide. I helped lobby the National Organization for Women to pass a nationwide resolution in support of reversing the bans. (The resolution can be viewed on NOW's website at now.org/issues/reproductive/vbac.html.)