Presidential pardon for a home-birth pioneer

Ágnes Geréb, an iconic figure of Hungary's home birth movement, received a presidential pardon on Thursday. The ob-gyn had been sentenced to prison after several controversial cases.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Presidential pardon
 for a home-birth pioneer
 - NewsMavens
Agnes Gereb, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Home birth is not particularly common in Hungary. There are many reasons why few women opt to give birth at home: one decisive factor it is that the “traditional” medical community still frowns on it and although the law makes it possible for a woman to give birth at home the public health system is not supportive.

Ágnes Geréb is one of a handful of Hungarian doctors who believe in the benefits of home birth.

Her case, however, became a symbol of the debate that surrounds home birth. While many healthy children were born with her help there were a few tragic cases: in one, a baby was born dead, in the other, the child suffered permanent health damage and died months later.

The cases caused a huge controversy since it was not clear whether the tragedies could have been avoided if she had acted differently. Professionals are also divided on the matter: some say she did all she could while others claim she did not take all the necessary precautions before the labours and did not call the ambulance in time.

She was sentenced to two years in prison and banned from practicing as a doctor.

Hungarian President Janos Ader however, pardoned her on Thursday. Yet though she does not have to go to prison, she will still not be able to return to her profession. Although the Geréb-case provoked a heated debate regarding home birth, there was no real step forward: women still find it challenging to give birth at home and they are still looked down upon by the medical community.

Details from the story:

  • Geréb has been under house arrest since 2010.
  • According to the sentence she cannot practice her profession for 10 years.
  • Geréb fought for fathers to be allowed in the delivery room in Hungarian hospitals.
  • She was the first to bring fathers inside the delivery room in the 1970s when this practice was still illegal.
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