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Szuleteshaz Kozhasznu Egyesulet/ Birth House Association (SKE)

Budapest Hungary
February 2012

Grant Description

In 2010, Hungarian midwife and homebirth practitioner, Dr. Agnes Gereb was arrested and imprisoned for the negligent malpractice. In March 2011 she was sentenced to two years imprisonment and suspended for five years from working as an obstetrician-gynecologist and midwife after she was found guilty in court for negligent malpractice. The police and prosecution are currently investigating three more incidents that will lead to further criminal charges against Dr. Gereb.

Homebirth in Hungary is often criminalized and subject to the patriarchal maternity services system of the country. Despite providing Hungarian and international medical experts on homebirth and midwife practices, their testimonies were disregarded by the Budapest Court. This organization views such actions as moves to discredit Dr. Gereb and to make homebirth impossible in the country. Former grantee, Birth House Association, requested funds to support a campaign that will include a press conference and demonstration on February 10th, 2012 the final day of judgment for Dr. Gereb’s trial.

The primary objective of SKE is to represent and protect expectant mothers, birthing women, newborns and their families: to secure the legal right to gentle and natural birth and to achieve its acceptance in society; to represent and protect professionals assisting in the field of gentle birth. This action is in line with this organization’s goals to “influence decision makers to create the conditions for a humane, child and mother centered birth.”

Impact Report

Funds were used to carry out a media campaign for justice for Dr. Agnes Gereb. Despite the extremely cold weather, there were more than 100 mothers, children and supporters gathered in front of the courthouse to express support. SKE invited two prominent women to the trial: Elisabeth Prochaska, Public Human Rights lawyer and birth rights specialist and Irene Walton, steering group member of the Association of Radical Midwives and Chair of the Local Maternity Liaison Committee, which is an independent body set up by the government to monitor local maternity services. However, on February 10th, Dr. Gereb was further sentenced to two years of imprisonment and a 10 year ban from practicing medicine. After the verdict was announced, both women made statements to the crowd in support of Dr. Gereb, and national and international media outlets. Ms. Prochaska also spoke at the Hague conference around the Ternovszky vs. Hungary case that grants the right for every woman to choose the circumstances of her birth. Currently, the media attention and organizing caused “strong social cooperation” which was unprecedented and MPs and citizens wrote letters to the President asking for clemency for Dr. Gereb. Her house arrest remains until the president decides whether to grant her clemency. This issue continues to gain attention and has helped SKE garner support from other foundations and individuals to continue fighting for the rights of mothers to choose the circumstances of their babies’ births.