Friday, October 30, 2009

Birth, Breastfeeding and Feminism?

Earlier this year a birth activist contacted me for information about feminism and birth. Her "fire" was to write an article was lit by recent (at the time) articles praising elective cesareans. Her article was going to be about feminism and its history in birthwork as well as what she is seeing a current "backlash" against the work of doulas, chidlbirth educators, and midwives (so, elective cesarean being framed as a "feminist" choice in some articles). She asked me for additional articles about similar issues and questions.

I never received an update as to whether she finished her article--I'd certainly love to read it when it is finished! I sent her some suggestions of other articles and resources to assist with the preparation of her article and I wanted to share those links here as well (since I bothered writing them all down!).

From the same site as "In Praise of the C-Section," there is another one about natural vs. medicated birth that critiques the "cult" of natural childbirth.

Then, a much older piece from Salon called I Believed in the Breast, which is basically a critique of La Leche League, but touches on feminism and breastfeeding as well. Speaking of breastfeeding as a feminist issue, I previously posted here about this French article about whether or not breastfeeding is feminist.

There is an extensive thread on the subject of birth and feminism on the AllDoulas messages boards that is extremely fascinating. If it won't let you see the messages without registering, you can register and then search for the thread called Feminism, Birth, and Breastfeeding. It is quite long and represents a LOT of differences in thought about the subject (some of them are disturbing to me, actually).

Then, this blog has a whole series of posts/thoughts about feminist theory and birth that are just great.

And then this is another radical feminist doula blog.

A book I enjoy that explores these ideas (and that yes, talks about the feminists promotion of Twilight Sleep and the paternalism of early birth prep methods) is: In Labor: Women and Power in the Birthplace by Barbara Katz Rothman.

An article that was published since our conversation that is also relevant is Jennifer Block's Birth Wars article.

Several articles that prompted the original question were:

Tova Mirvis, "In Praise of the C-Section: I’m not sorry I didn’t have a natural birth" (March 2009)

Hanna Rosin, "The Case Against Breastfeeding," in The Atlantic. (March 2009)

"Baby Food: If breast is best, why are women bottling their milk?" by Jill Lepore, New Yorker, January 19, 2009

Extreme Birth: The fearless—some say too fearless—new leader of the home-birth movement. By Andrew Goldman (March 2009)

"A Doula Makes Four" by Pamela Paul, New York Times (March 2008)

The Way We Live Now: 10-31-99:; Pay on Delivery By Margaret Talbot,

On a related note, I also received an email about a conference about Breastfeeding and Feminism: Rethinking Public Health Approaches to be held in March, 2010.

CfM Blogger

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Push Alert re: CPM Petition

Push the Petition! We're Nearly 10,000 Strong!

Thank you for signing the petition supporting CPMs in health care reform.

We need to reach our goal of 10,000 names this week, as Congress moves closer to taking final action on health care reform legislation. All members of Congress need to know that support for CPMs and out-of-hospital birth in their state is strong!

Be sure to forward this message far and wide and ask your family and friends to lend their support to the cause.

Midwives, it is especially important for you to let your clients know that we need them to speak up!

If you live in one of the following states, we really need you to act. We can't allow Delaware's Congressional delegation to believe that only 11 people in the entire state support midwives and home birth! If you live in Delaware, spread the word NOW!

Or Utah, South Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Wyoming! Surely there are at least 100 people in each of these states who can let their elected officials in DC know how much they support access to midwifery care!

Most states have hundreds of signatures, some close to 1000. But if you live President Obama's home state of Hawaii, or in Senator McCaskill's home state, Missouri, or in her neighbor state, Kansas, Congress needs to hear your voices today!

We can't afford to allow any members of Congress to think that there are fewer than 100 midwifery supporters in ANY state! If you have family or friends in any of the states mentioned, please reach out to them.

Those are states with fewer than 100 signatures but we need ALL the states to give the petition one more Push over the top so we can reach our goal and put Congress on notice that we want access to CPMs now!

Grassroots Network: Getting Medicaid Reimbursement for Birth Centers

Dear Friends,

Here's one more action you can take to Support CPMs and Out of Hospital Birth!

The American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) has been working hard to address a critical challenge for birth centers: no Medicaid reimbursement for facility fees, which threatens the very existence of many birth centers. (Did you know: about half of birth centers in the U.S. are owned and operated by Certified Professional Midwives, and CPMs and CNMs work side by side in many.)

Please support this important effort! AABC has been successful in getting amendments introduced in both the House and the Senate that should be part of the health care reform bills now being prepared in Congress. Now we can all help by making sure our U.S. Senators and Representatives know about this provision and that we, their constituents, want it included.

Read the Alert "What do the Birth Center Bill and the Tour de France have in common?" at . It includes links for everything you need to know to effectively contact your Congress people about this issue.

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maternal Mortality Graph

I found this image on the BOLD blog and found it very striking and wanted to share it here.

CfM Blogger

Grassroots Network: Actions to Support CPMs and Out of Hospital Birth!

Dear Friends,

As the Senate and House are in the final weeks and days of preparing their Health Reform bills for floor debate, THIS IS THE TIME to write letters and anything else you can do to make sure your Senators and Representatives in Washington, DC, know that you want CPMs included at the federal level!

This e-mail includes three things to as soon as possible!

1. The MAMA Campaign continues working in DC to have Certified Professional Midwives included on the federal list of Medicaid Providers. Please write a brief letter to your Senators and Representatives today! They need to hear from their constituents! Even if you think your Congress people have already decided not to vote for any health reform bill, write to them anyway about CPMs. You can find all the needed information (including sample letter language and links for finding who your representative and senators are and how to contact them) at the Take Action page of the MAMA Campaign website:

2. The National Women's Law Center has produced a brief video "A Woman Is Not a Preexisting Condition!" that you can see at:
They have an email setup right on that page to send emails to Congress about this issue, which has a section to add your own words. This is a great opportunity to add some sentences about CPMs, birth centers, and out of hospital birth in general. Thanks to Susan Jenkins for sending this information!

3. The Big Push for Midwives is encouraging everyone to sign their petition supporting CPMs and out-of-hospital birth. This is easy to do, and you are encouraged to forward this request to others. The petition sign-up is at: Find the full text of the Big Push notice at the end of this message.

This is our chance! Let's make sure Congress "gets it" about Certified Professional Midwives!

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Celebrity Webisodes on My Best Birth

I confess to having been a fairly devoted fan of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer TV show. So, imagine my delight to discover a "Celebrity Birth Webisode" on the MyBestBirth website featuring Alyson Hannigan (Willow in Buffy, now known for playing other roles, but Willow to me!) and her husband Alexis Denisof (Wesley on Buffy). In part 1, they discuss choosing to have a homebirth and the concerns/questions of people around them ("where is Alexis going to sit?" was a popular one from Alyson's mother) and also the reaction of their doctor when they asked him to provide hombirth backup (fear tactics). I look forward to seeing part 2 when it is available.

Also in the series are episodes with Cindy Crawford and Melissa Joan Hart.

I also confess to being a Xena fan--Lucy Lawless had a homebirth as well, so perhaps she'll be in a webisode next and make my fangirl heart content :)

CfM Blogger

*Note that to get the videos to play, I had to open them in Explorer instead of Firefox.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Review: Fathers-To-Be Handbook

Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A Road Map for the Transition to Fatherhood
By Patrick Houser
Creative Life Systems, 2007
Softcover, 160 pages, $16.95.
ISBN: 978-0-615-23338-3

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

I am delighted to see another contribution to a growing body of birth and fatherhood literature written for men. Unlike other fathering books I’ve reviewed recently (which were also wonderful) the Fathers-To-Be Handbook was actually written by a man! This man-to-man, father-to-father perspective is a valuable strength of the book.

Patrick Houser is the father of two boys, both born at home with a midwife. His second son, born in 1980 in Missouri, was the first documented water birth in the U.S. The author has been based in the U.K. for a number of years now and is the co-founder of a wonderful organization called Fathers-To-Be, offering resources and education for expectant fathers as well as to the childbirth professionals who work with them.

Fathers-To-Be Handbook is a quick read and is a small-size paperback; like a “pocket guide.” It is definitely meant to accompany other reading and classes. It does not have an index, but does have a helpful resources section.

The first several chapters of the book are about the experience of fathering—about becoming a father, your personal history with your own father (“fathering school”—what was your teacher like?), the importance of fathers, and the journey through pregnancy. The final four chapters address preparing for birth, giving good support, empowered birth, and fathering the newborn. The handbook is very supportive of midwifery, homebirth, and doulas. It also encourages fathers to have a male support person nearby the birthing room (or perhaps available for support by phone).

As the author states in an article included at the end of the handbook, "Humanity cannot invent a drug that can work better than a mother's body can manufacture or a knife that is sharper than her instinctual nature." I deeply enjoyed an addition to birth literature that both honors the father’s experience and is rooted in a positive, healthy, celebratory approach towards birth and the inherent capabilities of a woman’s body.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Media & Midwifery

On Thursday, a good article called "Media out of focus on midwifery" was published in the New Haven Register. Written by a professor of midwifery at Yale, the article includes some excellent observations such as:

"It is puzzling that these stories often do not cite well-documented evidence about outcomes of the practice of midwifery in the United States, nor invite representatives of the American College of Nurse-Midwives or the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives to comment."

and my favorite,

"Women are not seeking 'designer' births. They are looking for humanistic care during pregnancy, labor and birth and are increasingly having difficulty finding that in many hospitals."

CfM Blogger

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Grassroots Network: Maternity care insurance problem stories needed!

Dear Friends,

Please read the "Urgent request for stories" message from ICAN below. They are looking for documented accounts where women have had problems with insurance coverage related to pregnancy, particularly regarding discriminatory insurance practices based on a previous cesarean section. Read below for more details and what you can do.

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"


From: Gretchen Humphries
Subject: Urgent request for stories

I have sent you this request because of your connections within the Birth Community. I hope that you will see if there is any way you can assist ICAN with this request.

We have made this request before but now the stakes are really high. Peggy Robertson is a woman from CO who testified yesterday before the HELP committee (the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee) about being denied coverage because of a previous cesarean, unless she could prove she had been sterilized. (We managed to work in a couple of comments about VBAC bans too! Which got some response from a couple of Senators!) Senator Mikulski, who chaired that hearing, has asked for more stories similar to Peggy Robertson's. Please distribute this request as widely as you can

-ICAN needs stories about discriminatory insurance practices based on a previous cesarean. This can include but is not limited to demands for sterilization, restrictions on how soon you can have another pregnancy and be covered, higher premiums, restrictions on the total amount of benefits they will pay, excessively high deductibles for maternity care. Even if all you have is your name, state, contact information (email is fine) and a description of the circumstances (with the name of the relevant insurance company(ies) if possible) we can use it. If you have written documentation, that would be pure gold.

There is interest about this at the highest levels of the Federal Govt. and we will use this to open the discussion on other areas of discrimination (like VBAC bans, lack of transparency, etc) please, take a moment and get the information to ICAN. You can email me at or you can snail mail to ICAN of Ann Arbor, PO Box 48, Stockbridge, MI 49285.

Your story could make a difference that would improve the care available for millions of women and their babies.

Gretchen Humphries
Advocacy Director, ICAN
(517) 745-7297

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ukrainian Birth Blog and Natural Papa Blog

Late last month I posted about the apparently common birth practice in the Ukraine of routinely pulling out the woman's cervix to examine immediately postpartum (wince). Today, I'd like to share a link to a blog specifically about birth in the Ukraine. The writer is an aspiring midwife, doula, and childbirth educator, and is a missionary living in Kiev, Ukraine.

I also want to share a link to the Natural Papa blog, which I stumbled across last week via the post "Homebirth Dads: 10 Questions with Jerry Shannon." Lots of interesting posts about various aspects of natural living from a father's perspective.

Christiane Northrup, MD, has an article in The Huffington Post today called A Woman's Nation: Reclaim Your Right To Birth Right. The article primarily looks at the risks of intervention with birth. The article has a lot of comments--read them at your own risk! (I get extremely frustrated when reading article comments and try to avoid it, because it isn't worth the rise in blood pressure that results...)

Finally, a quick link to an article about a woman who is driving 350 miles to have a VBAC. What stands out to me about this article is that it is from CNN--it is great to have attention paid to VBAC bans in the "mainstream" media. The article even links to Lamaze's healthy birth practice papers for "information on getting the birth you want."

CfM Blogger

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grassroots Network: Great deal on Childbirth Connection's Birth Atlas and more

Dear Friends,

I am passing along a notice from Childbirth Connection (see below) for your benefit!

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Note from Molly: This is a great deal! I just called and ordered my package of materials. Make sure to dial 7 as the extension to get to the right person to place the order :)

For years, Childbirth Connection's publications have been a trusted source for childbirth educators, health professionals, women and their families. However, effective immediately, Childbirth Connection is discontinuing publication of The Birth Atlas and The Growing Uterus Charts.

To help clear out our existing inventory, we are offering a package deal to our childbirth advocacy colleagues and their members:

* The Birth Atlas: A Childbirth Connection international classic since 1940, this childbirth education resource contains life-size, high-quality, classic photographic reproductions of Robert Latou Dickinson, MD, and Abram Belskie's famous sculptures with explanations of the baby's development.

* Growing Uterus Seven Chart Set and Guide: A must for educators, this full color set of poster-sized charts beautifully illustrates the stages of pregnancy.

* The Rights of Childbearing Women: Brochures enumerating a 20-point list of rights of childbearing women, most of which are legal rights that women are entitled to. These rights are supported by the best research and are based on the principles of consideration and respect for every woman under all circumstances.

The Birth Atlas + The Growing Uterus Charts + 100 copies of The Rights of Childbearing Women brochure, a $150 value, packaged together for $50, including shipping within the United States.

Clearance orders may be placed by faxing in the attached order form to 212-777-9320, by phone (212-777-5000), or email ( If ordering by phone or email, please
include the following promotion code: CC2009.

We sincerely appreciate your continued business and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Jess Larsen
Executive Assistant
Childbirth Connection
281 Park Avenue South, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10010
T 212-777-5000 x7, F 212-777-9320
Please join our Maternity Quality Matters Campaign! Add your name to our
list of supporters:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Health Club Analogy

I am re-reading a book called Mother's Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth, by Kim Wildner. One of the things I enjoy about this book is how straightforward, matter-of-fact and unapologetic the author is when exploring concepts, realities, facts, and beliefs about birth. In a section addressing perceived risk and birth, she shares an effective analogy about health clubs and heart disease paralleling the accident-waiting-to-happen mentality of modern obstetrics:

A multitude of things CAN go wrong with any system in the body, but seldom DO. Take the heart/circulatory system for example. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. 873 per 100,000 die of heart disease (CDC). (Remember, natural birth is between 6 and 14 per 100,000 in the US, depending on the population.) Some of arteries on the verge of clogging. Some of heart defects they are unaware of. Some have damage they don't know about. Something could go wrong at any minute and immediately available surgery can undoubtedly save lives.

Using the logic of obstetrics, all health clubs should be in hospitals and all fitness trainers should be cardiac surgeons. Any independent health club with 'lay' trainers would be 'practicing medicine without a license,' subject to prosecution. It's for your own good.

In fact, in order to know if a problem is developing, close monitoring and 'management' is required. We will need to place straps on the muscles to measure the intensity of the workout. of course, it will be restrictive, but we need to know how hard the muscles are working to know if the heart can take it. We'll need to monitor heart rate, blood pressure, fluid output. We'll need to give an IV because with sweat excreted, you could dehydrate, and of course, we simply can't take the risk of letting you drink anything lest you need emergency surgery....
CfM Blogger

Friday, October 9, 2009

PBS Newshour Segment Referencing Homebirth

A great piece on home birth and health care reform was done on PBS’ McNeil Lehrer Newhour on (10/7). They featured the Netherlands and talked about home birth as part of the country’s cost savings and quality care. They mentioned how low their neonatal mortality is compared to the US. Really a good plug for home birth without the show being about that topic. Go to this link to see the transcript or you can download the segment titled “Health Care in The Netherlands.” It is vastly better than the recent Today show piece. Just as birth advocates organized to decry the terrible reporting of the TODAY show, we should work to thank the “Newshour” for their positive coverage of this topic. If people want to thank the McNeil Lehrer Newshour for their excellent coverage, you can give feedback here:

CfM Blogger

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It is National Midwifery Week!

The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) has a nice planning kit available on their website with tools and ideas for promoting and celebrating National Midwifery Week this week, October 4-10. There are several templates for articles as well as press releases and scripts for talking to reporters. There is also a list of twenty things you can do to acknowledge midwifery week in your community. I liked the idea mentioned of having a birthday party for babies born over the last year.

CfM Blogger

Florida Celebrates National Licensed Midwives Week!


Governor Charlie Crist Signs Proclamation Heralding Midwives for Dedicated Care

SARASOTA, FL (October 5, 2009)
– Governor Charlie Crist signed a proclamation today observing October 5 through the 9 as Licensed Midwives Week in the State of Florida, upholding midwives for being “dedicated to the care of pregnancy and childbirth and treat[ing] each woman’s pregnancy according to her unique physical and personal needs.” Governor Crist’s proclamation also recognized midwives for their role in the need to “improve birth outcomes in the State of Florida and ensure that women are given proper care and treatment in all phases of childbirth.”

In honor of this week, Florida Friends of Midwives (FFOM), a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the practice of midwifery in Florida, will be hosting various community events throughout the state this month to celebrate the more than 110 Licensed Midwives in the Sunshine State.

Florida Licensed Midwives Week coincides with National Midwifery Week, a time to recognize
the contributions of Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), Certified Midwives (CMs) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) nationwide. The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM)
publicly announced the week with an introduction to midwifery. “The heart of midwifery care for women and newborns lies more in the nature of that care than in its specific components. Midwifery practice has a firm foundation in the critical thought process and is focused on the prevention of disease and the promotion of health, taking the best from the disciplines of midwifery, nursing, public health and medicine to provide safe, holistic care.”

Midwives have a long and valued history in Florida. The state first passed legislation to license direct-entry midwives in 1931. In the 77 years since, Florida’s licensed midwives have continued to tirelessly serve the families of Florida and to ensure the continued availability of safe, evidence-based birthing options for Florida’s families. In 1992, Governor Lawton Chiles declared the first-ever Licensed Midwives Week. More women than ever before are seeking out licensed midwives for maternity care. According to the latest data from the Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery, births managed by Licensed Midwives in the state grew by about 5.5% from 2005 to 2006.

“We are honored every day to serve Florida’s mothers, babies, and families,” says Sarasota Licensed Midwife Alina Vogelhut, LM. “It means so much for our profession to be honored by Governor Charlie Crist and the State of Florida.”

Midwifery in Florida

In Florida, two types of midwives are allowed to practice: Certified Nurse-Midwives and Licensed Midwives (a Florida state licensure), also known as direct-entry midwives. Throughout the state, about 11.2 percent of births are estimated to be managed by midwives, rather than by OB-GYNs. Many birth centers and midwives have reported a significant increase in business in the past year. This increase is believed to be a result of various factors, primarily a greater number of women seeking alternative birthing choices due to an unhealthy increase in cesarean sections and other unnecessary interventions that frequently occur in hospital
settings. In a 2006 report on Florida Licensed Midwives, midwives had a cesarean section rate of 6.3 percent compared to a 36.64 percent statewide average in hospitals the same year.

For more information of midwifery in Florida, please visit

Shackling Pregnant Prisoners in Labor Found to be Cruel

Citizens for Midwifery signed on to the amicus brief in the case referenced below. Here is an update from the NAPW on the outcome of the court case regard shackling pregnant women during labor:

Dear Friends and Allies:

On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit (the federal level appellate court that reviews decisions from federal district courts in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, and Arkansas) issued the long-awaited decision in Nelson v. Norris. In this case, Shawanna Nelson argued that being forced to go through the final stages of labor with both legs shackled to her hospital bed was cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. She argued that she should be allowed to sue the director of the prison and the guard who repeatedly re-shackled her legs to the bed. Ms.. Nelson, an African-American woman, was incarcerated for non-violent offenses of credit card fraud and "hot checks."

In this historic federal court decision, the Court held that the guard was not immune from (protected from) suit because it has been clearly established by the decisions of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts that shackling pregnant women in labor violates that 8th Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court suggested that the corrections officers should have known that the medical risks of shackling were "obvious" and that "the shackles interfered with Nelson's medical care, could be an obstacle in the event of a medical emergency, and caused unnecessary suffering at a time when Nelson would have likely been physically unable to flee because of the pain she was undergoing and the powerful contractions she was experiencing as her body worked to give birth."

Ms. Nelson originally filed this case in 2004. As the case progressed through the courts, she seemed to be losing. In 2008, three judges on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that she had no right to sue. Recognizing the harm this decision would do, her counsel reached out to national advocacy groups for help in an effort to petition the court for re-hearing. Even though NAPW does not specialize in prison issues, we are recognized for our commitment to pregnant women and our extraordinary ability to mobilize leading public health and advocacy groups. With allies at the Rebecca Project for Human Rights and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), we were able to identify more than 35 organizations (see full list below) that wanted to be represented as amicus in this case. In a brief filed with the Kesten Law Firm in Arkansas, amici articulated both constitutional and international human rights arguments in support of the re-hearing and against the degrading and cruel practice of keeping pregnant women in labor in shackles. We did all this in less than a week.

This effort succeeded, garnering a decision by the court to re-hear the case en banc (with full court review). In any year, fewer than 100 cases in the entire federal system are granted rehearing with en banc review. This was a strong initial indication that our brief had made a difference. Not only that, but at oral argument one of the judges specifically referred to our brief, asking: "Based on the amicus submission filed in support of the petition for rehearing, wasn't Arkansas an outlier in the world's community in terms of treatment of pregnant prisoners?" Our answer is yes, and the Court of Appeals decision this Friday agreed.

That this decision is "historic," and that five of the eleven circuit court judges dissented, makes clear both how far we have come and how far we still have to go to ensure the civil and human rights of all pregnant women (the dissent in Friday's opinion saw no "clearly established" constitutional violations in shackling Ms. Nelson during labor.)

Congratulations to Ms. Nelson, her counsel, and all of the groups who sought reproductive justice and won in this case!

This victory makes clear that with persistence we can win. Please consider donating so that NAPW can continue our creative and successful advocacy efforts.

Lynn M. Paltrow
Executive Director
National Advocates for Pregnant Women

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fighting VBAC bans on a busy schedule: mother-sized activism

From ICAN: "Currently, 28% of US hospitals have in place official bans on vaginal birth after cesarean. An additional 21% have de facto bans, where there is no official policy but no doctors will support VBAC. Want to do something about it but think you're too busy to do much? Check out ICAN's new feature, Mother-Sized Activism."

What a great idea! La Leche League frequently refers to "mother-sized" roles within the organization and I like seeing the same concept applied to birth activism.

CfM Blogger

Friday, October 2, 2009

Film Review: Laboring Under an Illusion

Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing
Filmmaker: Vicki Elson
50 minutes, $39.99 (any use except broadcast, so personal, public screening, classroom, etc.)
An order of 5 of more DVDs and they are $19.99 each

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

Laboring under an Illusion is a treasure trove of discussion-provoking material. Filmmaker Vicki Elson is an anthropologist and childbirth educator who has created a striking documentary exploring media-generated myths about childbirth. As a childbirth educator, I often reference in my classes how our attitudes and expectations about birth are shaped by media messages—birth is an emergency, etc. This film eloquently and entertainingly provides 50 minutes of backup material for the idea!

The film blends media messages from comedy shows like Murphy Brown, Mad About You, and I Love Lucy, movie clips such as Juno, Coneheads, and Nine Months, along with “reality” based shows on Discovery Health with the inherently contrasting messages in clips of beautiful births from films like Birth as We Know It, The Business of Being Born, and Orgasmic Birth. It also contains brief voiceover narrations from “regular” women about birth. Occasionally, there is a scene with the filmmaker speaking directly to the viewer about concepts raised in the film. These scenes are less entertaining than the popular media clips and the friends with whom I watched the film wanted to fast-forward these segments—the media clips chosen so clearly speak for themselves that they don’t really need explanation, at least to the already birth-savvy viewer. Because of some strong language in the media clips, I caution parents are to preview the film before sharing it with children.

Laboring Under an Illusion is an entertaining and illuminating film for consumers as well as for birth educators, doulas, and midwives. I highly recommend it!

Grassroots Network: The Associated Press: THE INFLUENCE GAME: Birth centers fight for fees

Dear Friends,

The American Association of Birth Centers has been working hard to get birth center facility fees covered by Medicaid. (Hospital facility fees are covered, and birth centers need the same to survive.) Of course, birth centers are an excellent maternity care option for out-of-hospital birth, although they are underutilized and unavailable in many areas. And, about half of birth centers are owned by certified professional midwives.

The attached AP article about this initiative and AABC's lobbyist Karen Fennell was published in the Washington Post, New York Times, salon, Boston Globe, ABC news, CBS news, and numerous other media across the country Sept. 29 and 30.

You can read one of these articles here:

See AABC's Legislative Alert below, and see what you can do to support this effort!

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"


AABC's Legislative Alert: Seize the Opportunity to Capitalize on AP Article

The Associated Press has written an article about our legislative effort - "The Influence Game - Birth Centers Fight for Fees" - and it is being picked nationwide! So far it has been picked up by websites of ABC news and CBS news and, the liberal online newspaper, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and many local newspapers all over the country.

This is a tremendous opportunity to not only gain media attention for your center but also to put pressure on your Representatives and Senators to sign-on to the Medicaid Birth Center Reimbursement Act (H.R. 2358, S.1423)

Steps to Take:

1) Send the article (via email link or fax) to your Congressperson in both their district offices and DC offices.
2) Contact your local news media and see if they have picked up the story. If you have a birth center, invite them for a tour. Tie the article to your community.

3) If the article has run in your local paper, write a letter to the editor commenting on the story. Mention your local birth centers (or need for one in your community) and whether or not your Representative and Senators have signed on.

Important Links:

AP Article:

Bill Sponsors

Jill Alliman, CNM, MSN
Chair, Legislative Committee
American Association of Birth Centers

Grassroots Network: From the MAMA Campaign: write letters!

Dear Friends,

The Midwives & Mothers in Action (MAMA) Campaign is going strong! And now is the time to write letters to help get Certified Professional Midwives added to the federal list of Medicaid providers as part of the health care reform legislation.

Below is this week’s e-mail from the MAMA Campaign (not sure the photos will come through). If you have already signed up for weekly e-mail from the MAMA Campaign, you already received this e-mail. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll sign up (at )! Scroll down to read about how the campaign is going, and what some people have been doing to support this work.

Letters are needed – Congress members will not pay attention to this issue unless they hear from constituents. Letter-writing instructions are on the website. Short letters are fine! It only takes a few minutes to help with this campaign, so more women will have more access to Certified Professional Midwives and out-of-hospital birth!


Susan Hodges “gatekeeper”

From the MAMA Campaign 9-28-09

Visualizing our Goals

Federal Recognition: What Does it Mean?

You’ve seen this phrase on the news: the United States Senate is “marking up” its version of health care reform. Mark up means the formal public sessions in which legislation is drafted and amended. The bills are huge and complicated, and Congress makes many changes along the way, but eventually there will be a single bill in the Senate and a single bill in the House. And in those final bills, we still hope to see Certified Professional Midwives included as Medicaid providers.

But what, exactly, will that mean? How will federal recognition change the lives of midwives and the communities of women they serve?

Federal recognition of the Certified Professional Midwife, which we hope to achieve by adding CPMs to the list of approved Medicaid providers, will benefit mothers and midwives in three ways:

1) CPMs who are licensed will be eligible to receive Medicaid reimbursement for their fees, which will allow Medicaid mothers access to the same provider options as are currently available to mothers who have other methods of payment, such as private insurance;

2) Clients who are covered by other insurance policies will be more likely to receive reimbursement for CPM services because many insurance companies use the Medicaid provider list as a guideline for reimbursement; and

3) States that are working toward licensure will have a more persuasive argument for state recognition if CPMs are on the federal list of Medicaid providers.

If CPMs were added to the federal list of Medicaid providers, licensed CPMs would have the option of accepting Medicaid (but would not have to). In the eleven states that currently reimburse midwives from state Medicaid funds, it means that the state will be eligible for matching federal funds for purposes of reimbursement, thus reducing the burden on state funds. Including CPMs as approved Medicaid providers means that Medicaid mothers will have access to more maternity care options.

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Use Your Voice!

If you haven’t written a letter yet, now is the time! If you have already written, it’s time to write again!

Your Senators and Representatives in Congress won’t pay attention to this issue unless they hear from YOU – their constituents – in large numbers. At this time, a very brief letter is as good as a longer letter, and you can find everything you need to know at our web site.

Write to your legislator today! Tell them to support federal recognition for Certified Professional Midwives. We’ve made it easy for you; just follow this link.

Activists of the Week: Missoula Supports Midwives

On September 24th, children born at home marched with their parents and midwives in Missoula, Montana.

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Caption: Erika Hickey (left) and Julie Tompkins hold a sign with a simple message for Senator Baucus, the powerful Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

MAMA Is Blogging Health Care Reform.
You can follow the health care reform debate with MAMA! Read the latest post on our blog, The Grapevine.

Donate Your Resources: A Message from the Co-chair!

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Caption: Mary Lawlor, MAMA Campaign Co-Chair, lobbies Congress for federal recognition for Certified Professional Midwives.

Our Midwives and Mothers have come so far so fast in Washington, D.C. this summer! We have garnered great support and momentum on the Hill for including CPMs in the federal Medicaid program. Your passion and support, your letters and your dollars have fueled this momentum.

As the health care bills in the House and the Senate gather steam this fall, please keep your letters coming. And please keep your dollars coming as well! Could you donate $25, $50, or even $100 to the cause of federal recognition for CPMs? If you have already donated, could you give again? Every dollar helps move us closer to our goal! Your generosity is deeply appreciated.

Just click to donate.

Thank you!