Homebirth advocates are really, really afraid

They must be really frightened. They’ve rolled out the big guns.

After years of advising each other “Don’t listen to Dr, Amy,” they’ve turned to advising the general public not to listen to me. How else to explain Jennifer Blocks’s charming collection of ad hominems masquerading as an article of Slate. Entitled How to Scare Women, the piece carries the subtitle “Did a Daily Beast story on the dangers of home birth rely too heavily on the views of one activist?”

The piece in The Daily Beast to which Block refers is Home Birth: Increasingly Popular but Dangerous, which included the latest statistics of homebirth deaths as well as stories of two terrible, senseless, entirely preventable deaths. Block more or less dismisses the stories, but doesn’t even bother to dismiss the statistics. She can’t; they’re accurate and damning as she surely knows. So instead she tries to discredit me in the hope that she can divert the attention of homebirth advocates from the data itself. It’s a pretty despicable tactic, especially when you consider that it depends on the belief/hope that homebirth advocates are so gullible and unsophisticated that they cannot tell them difference between the two.

Fortunately, it addition rehearsing the same old ad hominems that are so silly that I have been satirizing them for years (She let her license lapse! She quite writing for Science Based Medicine!), Block helpfully links to a variety of blog posts that I have written. I’m not sure why she did it, because it thoroughly undercuts her efforts to discredit me by giving readers access to what I have actually written. I’m not sure whether she thinks less of me or her readers; me because she doesn’t find the pieces persuasive or her readers because she assumes that they won’t read them, understand them, and be convinced by them.

I left a comment on the post:

I suppose I should be flattered that Ms. Block believes that women decide whether or not homebirth is safe depends on what they think about me. I, on the other hand, feel very strongly that women are capable of looking at data and scientific evidence for themselves and my chief task is simply to make it accessible to them.

If you get past the various ad hominem attacks on me, you may note that Ms. Block has not challenged the fact that the latest CDC data shows that homebirth with a non-nurse midwife has a mortality rate 600% higher than comparable risk hospital birth. She has not challenged the high and rising rate of perinatal death at planned homebirths attended by licensed homebirths, rates that are double or triple the rate for Colorado as a whole, including premature babies and high risk women.

Women have a right to give birth at home, but they can’t make an informed decision if they don’t have complete and accurate information. Ms. Block is welcome to continue to write about me; I’ll keep writing about the data and I’ll keep trusting women to decide for themselves how to act on that data.

Jennifer Block and I do agree on one thing however; the article in The Daily Beast is scary. The scary part, though, is the mass of data that shows that homebirth with a non-nurse midwife dramatically increases the risk of neonatal death. It is deeply unfortunate, that Block, like most professional homebirth advocates, chooses to ignore that data and resorts to what amounts to little more than name calling in attempt to get others to ignore it as well.

I have a suggestion for how we might resolve the impasse. I have repeatedly challenged Jennifer Block to publicly debate the safery of homebirth. Slate could serve as the forum for a print debate about the state, national, and international statistics on homebirth, and the growing body of scientific evidence. Would the folks at Slate be willing? How about it, Jennifer? I’m ready any time; how about you?