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Stand up for the rights of women to make informed decisions in the delivery room by supporting access to water birth

This petition had 2,042 supporters

America was founded on principles of freedom and individual rights. But those rights are under attack in one of the most precious and vital areas of human life: the delivery room. And we need to take action now to protect ourselves right here in Lincoln, NE at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center.

Based on a recent committee opinion paper from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (hereafter referred to as ACOG), hospitals around the country are taking action to limit a woman's right to choose the manner in which her child is born by banning delivery in water. Every woman - every person - needs to stand up to protect the freedom to choose and demand that this outrageous ban not spread to our community. Maybe you would never choose a water birth for yourself - maybe you find the idea strange or unfamiliar. But this country was built on ideals that allow others to make their own choices. We need your help to protect freedom of choice for one of the most defining points in the life of a woman and her child, and we can’t do it without you!

Here's why using this opinion to ban water birth is wrong:

1. This committee opinion paper opens with the following disclaimer: “This document reflects emerging clinical and scientific advances as of the date issued and is subject to change. The information should not be construed as dictating an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed.” (Emphasis added) And yet what is the immediate course of action taken by many hospitals, St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center included? To consider or enforce an outright ban that restricts the rights of women to make an informed decision about their health care.

2. In this opinion paper, ACOG references a 2006 joint statement from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives which supports immersion in water during labor - what this reference fails to mention is that this same statement actually supports delivery in water as well. In fact, support for a woman’s right to choose a water birth is the de facto norm across much of the first world, including England, Germany, and other nations in Europe where the maternal death rate is 2-10 times lower than that of the United States.

3. Finally, in recommending that water birth be considered experimental, ACOG cites a lack of demonstrable benefits stemming from delivery in water and concerns that past studies may not have been large enough or well controlled enough to properly account for very rare risks and side effects. But the opinion seems to contradict itself, noting “an improvement in satisfaction among those allocated to immersion”, a fact supported in the Journal of Health Psychology. The second point simply fails to consider the many large national and international studies which have highlighted the safety of water birth. As has already been pointed out by others, this opinion is not a full scientific review of the topic, and basing policy on it is simply outrageous.

So why ban water birth? Why restrict a woman’s right to choose the manner of her birth? Why invade her right to privacy? It seems difficult to say. The committee opinion itself notes that a2009 Cochrane synthesis of RCTs concluded that, “there is no evidence of increased adverse effects to the fetus/neonate or woman from laboring in water or water birth”. Unfortunately, the best research available to date on the subject doesn’t seem to be enough for ACOG. Although the first documented water birth in the western world took place over 200 years ago, and despite water birth’s mounting popularity and the common standards of international practice, American doctors remain generally skeptical. But sadly, this unfounded resistance is not unusual in our American medical system.

So maybe you wouldn’t choose a water birth for yourself. But shouldn’t that decision be yours, made with full information and in consultation with a care provider who supports your rights? If you support women’s rights, and if you believe in freedom of choice, then you need to stand up and be counted by signing this petition! Send a message to Saint Elizabeth’s and other hospitals that you value your right to make your own decisions about your healthcare, and ask them not to limit this right by banning water birth for all women!

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