Jennifer Block: to defend homebirth, hide data

I guess the folks at The Daily Beast felt bad.

Last month, The Daily Beast published a searing indictment of American homebirth. Danielle Friedman, writing for The Daily Beast, pointed out:

While most home birthers rave, even evangelize, about their choice, for a small percentage, the fantasy becomes a nightmare. Beyond the statistics, these women’s stories often go untold. They’re not publicized by home-birth advocates …

This month, they’ve given a professional homebirth advocate the opportunity to respond.

And Jennifer Block responds in the way that any advocate of homebirth responds: leave out the most important information!

Block, like most homebirth advocates, is deeply distressed about the recent international study that shows the planned homebirth has triple the rate of perinatal mortality of comparable risk hospital birth. She trots out all tired arguments that are standard homebirth trope: its a conspiracy! One doctor agrees with her! (although 99+% of doctors disagree). Wacky homebirth advocates like The Feminist Breeder agree with her!

But Block deliberately leaves out the two most important pieces of information about American homebirth:

1. Homebirth DOES triple the rate of neonatal death.

That’s what all the existing studies of American homebirth show and that’s what the US national data show. The CDC has been collecting data on homebirth since 2003. The data is publicly available on the CDC Wonder website and it shows that PLANNED homebirth is the most dangerous form of birth in the US. Homebirth with an American homebirth midwife has triple the neonatal death rate of comparable risk hospital birth. That finding has been replicated in every single year for which data is available.

2. The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) refuses to publish the safety data that THEY COLLECTED.

MANA (Midwives Alliance of North America) the trade organization for direct entry midwives spent the years 2001-2008 collecting extensive data. In fact MANA collected the same data in 2000 and handed it over to Johnson and Daviss for the BMJ 2005 study. Over the years MANA repeatedly told its members that more extensive safety data was forthcoming, encompassing almost 20,000 CPM attended homebirths. And MANA has announced completion of the data collection and publicly offered the data to others.

So why haven’t we seen it? MANA will only reveal the data to those who can prove they will use it “for the advancementhomebirth advocates are condemning the publication of existing safety data from other studies while REFUSING to release their own safety data. There is nothing that more powerfully demonstrates homebirth advocates contempt for safety and contempt for the truth.

I have repeatedly challenged Jennifer Block to publicly debate the safety of homebirth (Jennifer Block: How about a debate?). And she has repeatedly ducked, going so far as to claim: “Non-scientists “debating” the science does a disservice to both the science and the women caught in the middle.”

She obviously thinks she know enough science to write a book promoting the safety of homebirth, run a website promoting the safety of homebirth, write articles in magazines and on websites like The Daily Beast promoting the safety of homebirth, but she doesn’t think you know enough to debate the scientific evidence about the safety of homebirth? If she doesn’t know enough to debate the safety of homebirth, how does she know enough to proclaim the safety of homebirth?

It’s not difficult to figure out the answer to that question. She knows enough to proclaim the safety of homebirth when she can ignore the existing scientific evidence and national data. No one knows enough to defend the safety of homebirth if they’re not allowed to hide the truth.