“Over the last half century maternity care has moved from community-based provision to hospital-based services, and there are real questions about where the gains and losses have been,” said one participant. Given the current rising birth rate, which is increasing by about 2% year-on-year – obstetric units were said to be “bursting at the seams”, the roundtable heard – and if women were just as safe at home or in a midwifery unit, and they preferred to be there, it made no sense for the assumption to continue that hospital was where they “ought” to be cared for during pregnancy and birth.
Ina May Gaskin assisting a woman at the Farm, Jane Montanaro, during a delivery
Gaskin says that because midwife-assisted home birth is illegal in many states and hospital birth comes with restrictions, many women are de facto coerced into surgery or other interventions they don’t need. For Gaskin, choice in birth remains a realm of reproductive freedom that mainstream feminism, until recently, has foolishly ignored. She thinks that women should seek not just the freedom to decide whether or not to have a baby, but how to have it.