Cosmopolitan (really!) has published an amazing interview with Dr. Katharine Morrison, the physician who worked with the abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was murdered by “pro life” activist James Kopp in 1998. She subsequently took over the Buffalo Women’s Clinic where they practiced. In the intervening years, she developed an interest in homebirth as a women’s rights issue and decided to open a birth center so that her clinic would truly offer comprehensive reproductive services in a woman-centered environment. It is only the second birth center in the entire state of New York (the other is in Brooklyn).
Unlike many obstetricians who vociferously oppose homebirth, Morrison has actually witnessed homebirths. And as has happened with other obstetricians who have taken the initiative to learn about homebirth midwives and attend homebirths, she underwent a conversion. She says that she went to a meeting led by Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) Eileen Stewart, who was giving up her homebirth practice because she couldn’t find a collaborating physician. Morrison recalls,
It occurred to me that, although I had delivered 2,000 to 3,000 women, I had never actually seen a natural birth.
Some obstetricians insist that it is ridiculous to say that OBs are not familiar with natural childbirth. They will have to take this up with Dr. Morrison. In any case, she asked Stewart to take on a few clients and agreed to be the collaborating OB. Here is her response to the experience:
It’s a different culture of birth. A woman isn’t subjected to anything she doesn’t want. She doesn’t need an IV [for drugs or fluids]. She can eat and move around. No one’s checking her every hour. She can go at her own pace, and even have a water birth. There’s no rush to cut the umbilical cord as there is at a hospital. And if labor is progressing slowly, no one’s pressuring the patient to have a C-section, as can happen at a hospital. All of these things were part of my routine in my previous practice. But when I saw this woman-centered care, I was hooked.
Although Morisson is opening a freestanding birth center, not a homebirth service, she observes the similar reactions of those opposed to abortion and those opposed to homebirth:
The same contempt that people have for women choosing to terminate a pregnancy and the person providing that care, I’ve seen for women who want to have natural births and for the women providing them. It’s this idea that these women are selfish and insufficiently caring about these babies.
Women generally care passionately about being good mothers and having babies who will have all of the resources they need to grow to be thriving adults. How and when to bring a child into the world are two sides of the same coin. Women’s autonomy in deciding where and how to give birth is just as important as autonomy in deciding whether to give birth at all.
Read the whole interview: “Meet the Doctor Who Opened a Natural Birthing Center in Her Abortion Clinic“