What would VBAC activists have done for Jennifer Goodall if her baby had died? Not a damn thing.


Yesterday I wrote about Jennifer Goodall, the Florida woman who wanted to attempt a VBAC after 3 previous C-sections, and the misinformation used by VBAC activists to support her decision.

Not a single organization or article that supported Goodhall had accurate statistics on the real risk that Goodhall faced. Most substituted statistics that applied to women who have had one previous C-section not three. All implied that Goodall was basing her decision on scientific evidence when that was completely false. All implied that the risk of C-section for Goodall and her baby was higher than the risk of attempted VBAC which was also completely false.

Fortunately, Goodall did what she should have done in the first place. She went to a different hospital prepared to handle her (ill advised, unsupported by medical evidence) attempt at vaginal birth. Not surprisingly, she failed in her attempt, confirming the concerns of the original hospital. The patients who face the greatest risk of rupture, death of the baby, hysterectomy and death of the mother are women who are unsuccessful in a VBAC attempt.

Lots of organizations were eager to use Goodall’s situation to advance their organizational agenda. They professed themselves to be deeply concerned for and deeply supportive of Jennifer Goodall. But what would they have done if Goodall’s uterus and ruptured and her baby died? Not a damn thing!

The support of Jennifer Goodall extended only up to the moment until she suffered a complication from attempted VBAC and ceased to be politically useful to them.

Consider the case of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), one of the organizations that sponsored a Change.org petition supporting Goodall’s desire to attempt a vaginal birth. The petition was filled with erroneous, inapplicable statistics (including the thoroughly discredited “optimal C-section rate withdrawn by the World Health Organization) and grossly deceptive misrepresentations of the position of obstetric organizations.

ICAN encouraged Goodall, supplied the inaccurate statistics on which she appears to have based her decision and supported her 100%. Considering how they encouraged her to risk her baby’s life and her own life, it’s worth asking what they planned to do to help her if the decision they were encouraging turned out to be deadly.

Here’s ICAN’s disclaimer, indicating just how far they are willing to go in taking responsibility for the medical information and encouragement they offer:

In no event will ICAN be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken by you or anyone else in reliance upon the information contained on or provided through the website.


… Use of this website is at your own risk… The website is presented by ICAN for the sole purpose of disseminating general health information for public benefit. Always seek the advice of your midwife, physician, nurse or other qualified health care provider before you undergo any treatment or for answers to any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The website and any information provided on the website are not intended to constitute the practice of or furnishing of medical, nursing, or professional health care advice, diagnosis, consultation or treatment or services in any jurisdiction.

ICAN is on record as being unwilling to stand behind their own information, acknowledges that they are in no position to assess and advise anyone of the specific treatment that is best for them, and emphasizes that only the providers actually caring for a woman are capable of offering her an accurate assessment of the risks she faces and the treatment course that is advisable in her specific cases.

The biggest irony, though, is that by putting a disclaimer on their website, ICAN is doing PRECISELY what it claims to abhor among obstetricians. ICAN is behaving defensively. The most important thing that they want you to know about their website and the information that they offer is that they will not take any responsibility to ensure that it is accurate or to prevent harms that arise from people using it. If your baby dies or you die because you actually believed what ICAN told you, too bad for you for being gullible enough to believe a website that doesn’t even stand behind its own information.

The folks at ICAN have the unmitigated gall to rail against “defensive medicine” when a hospital wants to make sure that neither a mother nor her baby die, while simultaneously practicing defensive medicine by disclaiming their own advice and support.

What would ICAN and other VBAC activists done for Goodall if her baby had died? Less than nothing, pointing to the legal language they’ve draped over their site specifically absolving themselves for ensuring the accuracy of their information, let alone whether their information was applicable to the woman who used it.

So here’s my question for anyone contemplating VBAC against an obstetrician’s advice:

Who is likely to be more concerned with whether you and/or your baby live or die, the obstetrician and hospital who are prepared to take responsibility for the outcome, or the organization and activists that are happy to support you for their own political benefit and equally happy to dump you if you actually trust them?