HUMAN RIGHTS – BIRTH

When Birth Is Not Free:

Update on Ágnes Geréb – Prosecuted Hungarian Home Birth Midwife

Toni Harman
Toni Harman, Co-founder of One World Birth
11th October 2016

Dr Agnes Gereb – Still image from FREEDOM FOR BIRTH

Image by Alto

Four years ago, we met and filmed a home birth midwife called Dr Ágnes Geréb in her apartment in Budapest, Hungary.  At the time, Dr Geréb was under house arrest and was due to return to prison.   Dr Geréb was an obstetrician who later trained as a home birth midwife. Dr Geréb attended over 3,500 home births but, in Hungary at that time, the legal position of midwives to attend home births was very difficult.

In 2010, Dr Geréb was imprisoned and criminally prosecuted. The charges against her relate to a very sad situation where a baby died from a shoulder dystocia complication at a home birth. There are also two other cases where a home birth baby died many months later. In one case, the baby died 14 months later, and in another case, the baby died 7 months later.

Dr Geréb’s story became the basis of our FREEDOM FOR BIRTH film which launched in 2012 with over 1000 public screenings in 50 countries – and on that day a collective cry of injustice was heard all around the world. But despite the international public outcry and many thousands of people signing petitions, the charges were not dropped.

Image from FREEDOM FOR BIRTH

Image by Alto

Meeting Dr Geréb, or Agi as we came to know her by, was one of the most moving experiences of my life. She told me her powerful story and I had goose-bumps – not just because I felt the terrible injustice of her situation but also because this was a woman who had devoted her life to giving women choice in birth.

Dr Geréb is still facing multiple criminal charges. According to Donal Kerry, the international spokesperson for the Justice for Dr. Ágnes Geréb Campaign, in September 2016 the Appeal Court upheld their guilty verdict on 5 cases (dating from November 2015), but this Appeal Court decision is likely to go to the Supreme Court, with a verdict due early in 2017. There are two other active court cases and the final decision on these is expected in January 2017.  For more information about the cases against Dr Geréb: http://legalfunddragnesgereb.net/landing-page/court-cases/

In the meantime, whilst all these court cases continue, Dr Geréb is no longer under house arrest. However, she is restricted about where can she go internationally and what she can do nationally, but luckily these restrictions have not stopped her voice being heard. On October 19th, Dr Geréb will give a presentation at the HRiC European Summit Conference in Strasbourg, France: www.humanrightsinchildbirth.org/event/europe-2016/

What Agi said to me that day in 2012 remains very true today, “The freedom in a country can be measured by the freedom for birth”.
With all my heart, I hope that one day there will be true freedom in birth. I hope that all women will be free to have full informed choice. I hope that all women will be free to decide where, how and with whom they give birth. And I hope all those free choices will be fully supported by every health professional and every maternity system. With regards to Agi, I hope that sometime soon, justice will finally be served and she herself will be free.
Toni Harman, Producer / Director, FREEDOM FOR BIRTH Here is a link to watch FREEDOM FOR BIRTH: http://www.oneworldbirth.net/project/freedom-for-birth/

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