“I could get them to indict a ham sandwich”

“I could get them to indict a ham sandwich.”

This legal aphorism highlights the immense power of the prosecutor bringing charges in the grand jury.

Though the grand jury was set up to restrain the government from bringing baseless charges, it is highly unusual for a grand jury to refuse to indict whomever the prosecutor chooses. That’s because the grand jury, as opposed to the regular jury that will determine the final verdict, hears only from the prosecutor. The jury, therefore, is only allowed to hear what the prosecutor wants it to hear. When you hear only one side of a story, it is easy to believe it, but things often look very different when you are allowed to hear from the other side.

The prosecutor is free to present whatever evidence he thinks make the strongest case and leave out facts that may weaken his case. The prosecutor is allowed to speak, but the defense is not. The prosecutor controls the entire process; the defense lawyer isn’t even in the room.

In the world of natural childbirth and homebirth advocacy, authors, bloggers and website owners serve as the prosecutors for modern obstetrics. They include people like Henci Goer, Ina May Gaskin and Ricki Lake. They bring indictment after indictment. It’s easy to believe them because they are often articulate and sophisticated in the ways of moving people emotionally.

If they are the prosecutors, who is the jury?

You, dear reader, are the jury. So the question you must ask yourself is this: does the author short circuit the proceedings as in a grand jury? Or does the author allow the other side to present a defense, as in an actual trial?

In a court case, it is easy to know whether the defense has been allowed to present its side. The defense lawyer offers his side immediately after the prosecutor offers his. The defense lawyer makes his plea to the same jury, in the same courtroom, following the same rules. That’s not likely to happen in a book on NCB or a documentary on homebirth, but there is an analogue on the web. On the web, the other side has an opportunity to speak in the comment section. That’s where the defense case can be presented, but only if the owner of the website allows it.

When a website owner deletes comments and blocks commentors, whether the owner is Mothering.com, Lamaze, Henci Goer or Ricki Lake, the owner is muzzling the defense. They want to win and they don’t care to play fair. And just as in the case of the prosecutor who could get the jury to indict a ham sandwich, they can get you, the reader, to believe almost anything about modern obstetrics.

What about the argument, often deployed by Mothering.com, that readers are looking for support not arguments and are free to find arguments elsewhere? Undoubtedly some women want only support, but that is not my impression of most women researching natural childbirth and homebirth. They describe themselves as doing “research” and “educating themselves” and we should take them at their word. Although they may be drawn to one side or the other, most consider themselves fair minded people and believe that they are open to hearing and evaluating both sides.

What about the argument that they could find the other side elsewhere? That’s certainly true, but as in the case of juries, we know that the best decisions are reached when jurors can hear both sides under the same conditions at nearly the same time.

How about the argument that entitites like Lamaze or people like Henci Goer are capable of providing the other side and don’t need a representative of the other side to do so? Would you think it was fair if the prosecutor were allowed to present the defense as well as the prosecution? Of course not. The same thing applies to NCB and homebirth advocacy.

What does it mean when a website or advocate moderates comments, deletes comments and block commentors? It means that they have no interest in letting you make your own decision; they’ve already decided what you should believe. It means they recognize that the defense has very powerful arguments, arguments that they may not be able to counter. It means that they understand that if you were to hear both sides you might be persuaded by the other side. Most importantly, it means they they have rigged the trial, thereby preventing a fair verdict.

When a website or blog bans you or me from commenting, they’ve conceded that our arguments are powerful, and difficult to rebut. In other words, when they ban you or me, it is a compliment. And since I’ve been banned from just about every NCB and homebirth website or blog, I feel very complimented. No one bans commentors unless the fear them, and by that metric, I am very feared indeed in the NCB and homebirth communities, as I should be. The facts, the statistics, and the scientific evidence are on my side.

There’s one way to present both sides that’s even better than an open website or blog and that’s a debate, in person or in print. That’s why I have offered to debate just about every single celebrity NCB and homebirth advocate. A debate would allow women to make up their own minds having heard and analyzed the positions of both sides, just as a jury does. And that’s precisely why professional NCB and homebirth advocates have refused to debate. They don’t want women to hear the other side. If you were the prosecutor, wouldn’t you prefer a venue that gave you so much power that you could convince the jury to indict a ham sandwich? NCB and homebirth advocates are no different.

What readers need to understand is that you are being manipulated when you are prevented from hearing the defense case. You need to ask yourselves a critical question:

Have you reached a rational decision on modern obstetrics, NCB and homebirth, or have you you been convinced to indict the proverbial ham sandwich?