Like all of you, my heart breaks for the McKenzie family and for any parent who experiences the loss of a child. While honoring the McKenzies and empathizing deeply with them, I ask you to join parents of babies born at home, supporters of informed choices in childbirth, skilled home birth midwives everywhere, and me in response to the Today Show and its gross misrepresentation of midwife-attended home birth and the women who choose this option. _________ Dear NBC Producers,
We, the undersigned, collectively voice our deepest concerns over what we believe has been a gross misrepresentation both of midwife-attended homebirth and of the women who choose this option. While empathizing deeply with the McKenzie family and their loss, we are shocked at the way in which NBC's "Today Show" chose to portray homebirth as dangerous while choosing to ignore ample medical research that demonstrates its safety in the US and in other developed countries around the world. Not only did the producers of the Today Show ignore journalistic due diligence, they also chose to ignore basic rules of fairness by repeatedly citing doctors and the trade union that represents them while denying midwives and their proponents a voice. This is simply irresponsible journalism, and misleading to your viewers. We expect more from such a well-respected program. We stand in support of families who choose to birth their babies at home with a skilled midwife, not for hedonistic reasons, as the Today Show segment so insultingly suggests, but because they truly believe that it is the best option for themselves and their babies. We support women who choose home birth, who are not following a fad, but who are following their hearts and their informed minds to seek a birth that is both safe and healthy. Far from being a recent trend or fashion, midwifery draws on a continuum of knowledge and experience that goes back many centuries. Midwives are well-trained professionals who specialize in normal birth and provide outcomes that are often superior to obstetrician-attended birth. To suggest otherwise is deeply offensive. The Today Show missed an opportunity to discuss why, despite its near universal reliance on hospital-based, physician-attended obstetric care in birth, America has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the developed world. It missed an opportunity to discuss the reasons why highly educated, thoughtful and responsible women are choosing a home birth with a qualified midwife as an alternative to a hospital birth- an option that other countries have proven again and again costs less money, necessitates fewer c-sections, and provides better outcomes for mothers and babies than our system. The Today Show missed an opportunity to ask why the United States spent $86 billion in 2006 on maternity care that left the US with one of the worst infant mortality rates in the developed world and left women and their families asking for more choices in their maternity care. Although every infant death is a terrible tragedy, the real scandal about birth in the US lies not in the death of the McKenzie's baby alone, but in the fact that 13.6 African American babies die for every thousand live births; an infant mortality rate that is triple that of Denmark or South Korea. What is truly shocking is not that a fraction of women choose home birth, but that our international infant mortality ranking has worsened from 12th in the world in 1960 to 29th in 2004 during the same period that our rates of medical intervention in birth have gone up exponentially- Cesarean section rates alone have more than tripled. We are passionate about childbirth issues because we know that, like the rest of the healthcare system in this country, there is much room for improvement. Drawing battle lines between midwives and doctors and terrorizing the public unnecessarily are hardly constructive means to this end. We call on the Today Show to provide the public with the whole story regarding the evidence and viewpoints supporting the choice of midwife-assisted home birth.
We call on the Today Show to choose responsible journalism.
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