Barbara Stratton, who was voted one of the United States' top 30 women's health activists of 2005 by the National Women's Health Network, wrote an article that appeared in Midwifery Today entitled "50 Ways to Protest a VBAC Denial." The title is tongue-in-cheek, of course, as she offers eleven ideas.
Stratton recently started a national VBACtivism Yahoo Group for those actively fighting VBAC bans in their communities. Please contact Barbara Stratton at womancaredoula (at) comcast (dot) net.
For the full text, please click over to read the article here.
1. Hold a rally at the hospital. Contact the International Cesarean Awareness Network (http://www.ican-online.org/) to be matched with a "rally mentor" who can help you with the details.
2. File a complaint with your health insurance carrier on the grounds that they are paying extra money for unnecessary cesareans.
3. File a complaint with your state medical board against the physician.
4. File a complaint with your state agency that regulates hospitals.
5. Write a letter to ACOG about their failure to update the VBAC guidelines after the New England Journal of Medicine study came out in December 2004. That study reported that the rupture rate in a non-induced or augmented labor is only 0.4%. Since only a portion of those cases will be catastrophic, the study summarized that 588 elective repeat cesareans would be required to prevent "one poor perinatal (meaning, around the time of birth) outcome."
6. One of the most promising routes to reversing the VBAC bans that we probably have is to file complaints through the Medicaid system. Women who file the complaints don't have be on Medicaid themselves in order to complain—just make sure that the hospital itself receives federal funding.
7. Find a lawyer who will help you sue your banning hospital.
According to Stratton, an attorney is looking for YOU.
“I’m a lawyer with the Northwest Women’s Law Center in Seattle. I’m investigating possible legal responses to bans on vaginal birth after cesarean at hospitals in the northwest states - Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. If you are currently pregnant and want to have a VBAC, but are facing a hospital policy that would require you to have a c-section regardless of whether you want it and whether it is medically necessary, and are willing to consider working with a lawyer on this, we’d like to talk with you. Please email us at email@example.com . Our services will be provided free of charge.”
8. Write to the attorney general (AG) who deals with your state's department of health.
9. Complain to JCAHO. Have you heard of The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAHO)? They are an organization that accredits 80–85% of the hospitals in our country. One of the standards for accreditation is patient rights. Their home page is www.jcaho.org.
10. If the hospital that is denying your VBAC claims they don't meet ACOG's VBAC guideline relating to "immediately available" anesthesia during labors, call your local newspaper and pitch the following story: "Women go to hospitals to give birth because they often feel that a hospital is best equipped to handle birth emergencies. Did you know that XYZ Hospital handles 1400 births a year but doesn't actually have the ability to perform an emergency cesarean 24 hours a day/seven days a week? They also offer heart procedures/gastric bypass/other risky treatments, but if those patients need emergency surgery overnight no anesthesiologist may be available to handle the case. Don't you think that birthing women and other health consumers in our area have a right to know this?"
11. Call your state representatives and request a personal meeting. Tell them about the VBAC ban and ask them to introduce a bill during the next legislative session that specifically prohibits VBAC bans and requires informed consent for all VBAC women.
Original article appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 78, Summer 2006.