Why homebirth midwives think it is okay to hide their statistics

Imagine that a group of creation “scientists” at a fundamentalist Bible college announced that they were in the process of performing an experiment that would definitely disprove the central tenets of evolutionary biology. Their experiment would settle the issue once and for all by showing that the idea of humans evolving from more primitive primates is completely inconsistent with scientific evidence.

Now imagine that they performed their experiment, analyzed the data and found, to their horror, that their own experiment showed that creation “science” was incompatible with the evidence and that the evidence supported the fundamental principles of evolutionary biology. How do you think they would handle that evidence?

My guess is that they would never publish it. Why? Because they start from a conclusion that they firmly believe, that God created the human beings in His own image, and will not accept any evidence that contradicts that belief. How would they justify hiding their own data? They would tell themselves and each other that their own data must be faulty. They must have done the wrong experiment, or the experiment was contaminated, or they had improperly analyzed the data. They would assure themselves and each other that future experiments would, without a doubt, ultimately invalidate evolutionary biology, even though their experiment did not.

I suspect that this is the same thinking process followed by homebirth midwives and professional homebirth advocates. They are lying about the safety of homebirth by hiding their own data that shows it is not safe, yet they do not consider themselves liars. Rather their belief in the presumed safety of homebirth is akin to religious faith. In their view any data that shows that homebirth increases the risk of perinatal death, even their OWN data, must be faulty. If they just hide the bad statistics now and keep collecting data, eventually, at some unspecified future time, the data will ultimately show that homebirth is safe.

How else to explain the grossly unethical behavior of Colorado homebirth midwives? Despite the fact that in every year since homebirth midwives were licensed in Colorado their death rates have been extraordinarily high and despite the fact that these high death rates have been rising precipitously, they feel perfectly justified in hiding these facts from the women of Colorado, even though they are violating state regulations. The way they see it, there must be something wrong with the data. The alternative is too frightening to contemplate. If they keep collecting statistics long enough, sooner or later those statistics cannot be relied upon to show that homebirth is safe.

How else to explain the grossly unethical behavior of Melissa Cheyney and the Midwives Alliance of North America? They collected statistics on the safety of 24,000 planned homebirths and they refuse to release their own death rates. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the death rates are horrendous and that is why they are hiding them. I have been writing about this point for many years, in a variety of venues, including national publications like Time Magazine, and MANA has never denied it.

Yet the way that Cheyney and MANA see it, there must be something wrong with the data. Therefore, they feel perfectly justified in their own minds in hiding the truth from American women. They are convinced that if they continue collecting statistics long enough, sooner or later those statistics will have to show that homebirth is safe and they can publish them then.

Most of us understand that for creation “scientists,” the biblical account of creation is a matter of religious faith. It simply must be true or their entire world view will collapse. Similarly, for homebirth midwives and homebirth advocates, the safety of homebirth is a matter of faith. It simply must be true or their entire world view will collapse.

When it comes to creation “science,” no one is hurt by believing in the biblical tale of creation. However, when it comes to homebirth, the stakes are far higher. Babies are dying because homebirth midwives refuse to acknowledge their own evidence; babies are dying because homebirth midwives consider maintaining their own world view more important than whether those babies live or die; babies are dying because homebirth midwives are hiding the data from American women.

Enough is enough. There is no moral, ethical or legal reason that justifies homebirth midwives, such as those in Colorado or those who are in charge of MANA, hiding data from American women. Sure, acknowledging the truth will be very bitter for homebirth midwives, but it doesn’t come close to the bitter grief of homebirth loss mothers who, had they received accurate information on the dangers of homebirth, would be raising their babies instead of visiting them in cemeteries.

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