Jennifer Margulis whines that it is hateful to demand proof


Poor Jennifer Margulis!

It’s getting tougher and tougher to be a homebirth blogger. It’s fine if you restrict the comments on your blog to only those who know as little about science, statistics and childbirth as you do. You can dazzle those people with any nonsense that you care to fabricate. But when you are hawking your book, you have to interact with the rest of the world. And the people in the rest of the world are so mean, so hateful, so lacking in basic decency that they have the unmitigated gall to demand … actual evidence.

What’s a homebirth blogger to do when confronted with evidence that doesn’t support her position? Standard operating procedure in the homebirth community, which Margulis faithfully followed, is to offer a stupid excuse, and she outdid herself by offering one of the stupidest. When confronted on her recent post (When Obstetricians Hate Homebirth Midwives, Birth Becomes Less Safe for Everyone) with the recent statistics from Oregon that planned homebirth with a licensed midwife has a death rate 9X higher than term hospital birth, Margulis responded with this gem:

Amy, Oregon has some of the safest best homebirth stats in the country IF YOU DON’T COUNT PORTLAND…

Having made a complete fool of herself, and completely incapable of rebutting my claims, Margulis has retreated to a pity party on her Facebook page:

I’m used to be flamed and hated, but some of these comments are so nasty and personal that I think they go too far. I need advice from more experienced bloggers: do I allow the hate comments to continue (that’s what I’m leaning towards) or do I turn the comments off?

What’s “hateful” about the comments? Apparently it’s “hateful” to demand that someone support her factual assertions with actual facts. Apparently it’s “hateful” to question a journalist with a PhD in literature on whether she has the qualifications to write about obstetrics, science and statistics. Apparently, for homebirth advocates, just like for junior high school girls, it is “hateful” to dare to disagree.

Here’s a little unsolicited advice for Margulis:

In the world of grown ups, it is not hateful to disagree with someone or to demand proof for their assertions. If you want to put yourself out there as a defender of the safety of homebirth, you damn well better be prepared to support your positions with actual facts. And if you can’t support your position (and you can’t), instead of whining, start questioning your beliefs.

Exactly how many babies have to die preventable deaths at homebirth, Jennifer Margulis, before you manage to wrap your head around the fact that you are wrong? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? Or is it more important to you to hold on to cherished beliefs than to care whether babies live or die?

Addendum (3/30/13): Apparently whining isn’t enough to prevent those “hateful” people from insisting that if you publish a book, you ought to be able to defend your claims.

Henceforth Margulis intends to employ the professional homebirth advocate’s most important tool, the ability to make dissent disappear by deleting or banning it.

“Any future comments on this thread that do not show respect towards myself and other commenters will be deleted, and the commenter will be blocked from commenting on this blog in the future.”

Why do professional homebirth advocates reflexively reach for the delete button, and, if available, the ban button, when confronted with dissent? I suspect there are three reasons:

1. It is vital for their advocacy (and I suspect for their fragile self-esteem) to create a space that doesn’t simply reinforce their beliefs, but makes it look like no one believes anything else. Dissent simply cannot be tolerated.

2. They are incapable of addressing the criticism.

Most professional homebirth advocates are aware at a certain level that they don’t have science on their side. They readily vomit up bibliography salad, but they don’t analyze (or, in many cases even read) the citations they offer.

Margulis could have acknowledged her mistakes and corrected them, but that would have required two things she apparently cannot tolerate: actual research into the topic she’s babbling about and intellectual honesty.

3. They are afraid of letting their readers think for themselves.

If they had even a fraction of confidence in their own claims and/or a modicum of respect for the fact that their readers are intellectually capable of drawing their own conclusions, they wouldn’t merely let dissent stand, they would welcome it. By defending their claims against those launched by critics, they could strengthen their case that homebirth is safe. But they are exquisitely aware that they lack the knowledge base and the intellectual ability to defend the safety of homebirth. Most importantly, they are well aware that the dissenters are often right and they are wrong.