C-Sections, Forced, Coerced, or On Demand?

The World Health Organization considers acceptable levels for cesarean rates as not less than 5% and not more than 15% of all deliveries. Yet approximately 28% of all US births are by cesarean delivery, accounting for approximately one million cesareans a year. Given these facts, it should not come as a surprise that organizations concerned about unnecessary and potentially risky c-sections, including NAPW, will be closely watching this week when the National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science holds its conference on ‘cesarean delivery by maternal request.’ http://www.consensus.nih.gov

The American College of Nurse Midwives. Childbirth Connection, the American Association of Birth Centers, Citizens for Midwifery, the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, the International Cesarean Awareness Network, and Lamaze International are among the organizations watching closely. These groups support the “REDUCE” campaign . . .

a new public outreach effort “to call attention to the rising Cesarean section rate in this country and the fact that the increased number of Cesarean sections, especially those done electively, is not supported by medical evidence.” http://www.midwife.org/news.cfm?id=876

NAPW and its staff have been involved in a number of cases where anti-abortion arguments have been used to justify c-sections that were forced upon pregnant women. One NAPW web-site reader wrote this angry e-mail in response to some of our commentary on this subject.


“I am writing in response to one of your leaders who stated that the situation concerning a 28-year-old mother who was forced to have a c-section was the “obvious and predictable outcome of attempts to personify the fetus in the law through the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and similar legislation.” I can not even fathom this disregard for human life. I am the mother of girl-boy twins. My daughter was born naturally with no complications. My son was delivered almost 2 hours later via c-section. When the doctor told me that my son had to be delivered c-section, there wasn’t even the slightest hesitation on my part to do what was right and loving for my child. The indifference this leader of yours showed by towards the baby, because that is what he is, a baby…by writing that article is unbelievable to me. I can’t even believe that people really do speak and believe like that! My child was born alive and breathing and able to feel pain…HE WAS NO FETUS but a sweet, innocent, helpless CHILD. When is a person a person?! It is our responsibility to see that ‘nutcases’ like that lady are punished to the full extent of the law. Everyone has a right to life. Maybe your leader should go into a delivery room sometime!. . . Signed L.L.”

As that leader, one who, by the way, has been in a delivery room, here is part of my response:

Dear Ms. L:

I too am the mother of boy, girl twins --and both were delivered by c-section. C-sections can be a life saving gift when they are needed. I am so glad that this procedure was available to you and your son when you needed it. I am sad, however that this procedure is forced on some women creating unnecessary risks and expenses for both the pregnant woman and her family. A c-section was forced on Angela Carder, resulting in her death and the death of her baby. John and Amber Marlowe were almost forced to have an unnecessary c-section. A court, accepting anti-abortion fetal rights arguments, gave the hospital custody of the fetus before, during and after delivery and the right to cut Ms. Marlowe open against her will. To protect herself and her child from unnecessary surgery, Amber Marlowe and her husband fled the hospital and found one that respected patient rights. There she delivered, vaginally, a perfectly healthy baby.

What is “right and loving” in one case may be wrong and dangerous in another. NAPW works to ensure that women and families can make informed decisions based on medical evidence, not politics or professional convenience.

My best wishes to you and your family.

Lynn M. Paltrow