Obstetrical Abuse and the War Against Ourselves

“No good comes from discussing any of this.  An enormous literature has appeared over the years to no avail.  These obscene practices have become not just acceptable but the model for childbirth.  Our current generations are the unbonded victims shaped by the system, terrified of the thought of birth outside the medical umbrella, willing to pay any price to avoid personal responsibility for what is considered a dreadful experience.  As my New Zealand physician friend, Stephen Taylor, put it, this is really a basic war of man against woman.  In the male intellect’s long battle with the intelligence of the heart, the real trump card was found in catching the woman when she is most vulnerable and stripping her of her power.  Now, it seems we have her — and are surely had.  Beneath it all grows great anger: children angry at their parents; men angry at women because they didn’t get what they needed from women at life’s most critical point and still fail to get it; women angry at men for robbing them of their power and, identifying with their oppressors, rejecting motherhood and men in the process.  This has caused a rising tide of incompetence and inability to nurture and care for offspring.  The genetically encoded intuitions for nurturing have been shattered, and the results are cloaked by ever-so-practical rationalizations.  The largest growing work force of the 1980’s were the mothers of children under age three.  Day care, an unknown phenomenon until recent years, is a major growth industry.  Seventy percent of all children under age four were in day care by 1985, and major concerns of the nation are how to get them all into day care — and who will pay for it.

“Our species has survived throughout its history by women caring for women in childbirth, yet midwifery in the United States has been virtually illegal for the last half century.  Male surgeons are in charge and many of the female obstretricians follow their system andd are little better.  Home birth under any circumstances is safer and more successful than hospital birth, by a six-to-one ratio.  That is, the death rate is six times higher in hospitals than at home, regardless of conditions..  Male doctors’ intellect has interfered with women’s intelligence and in effect, destroyed a major segment of their lives.  Medical childbirth is one of the most destructive forces to issue from the mind of man and a most destructive force on earth today.  And, as so often in history’s ironies, we bow down and worship that which is destroying us.  We “honor our doctor as our god” (as one medical man’s sign admonished), and offer up in propitiation our mothers.

“In 1979 the government of California funded the first scientific study ever made of the root causes of crime and violence.  Their first report three years later stated that the first and foremost cause of the epidemic increase of violence in America was the violence done to infants and mothers at birth.  It is the primary cause of our explosive rise of suicide, drug abuse, family collapse, abandonment and abuse of infants and children, deterioration of schooling, and social disintergration in general.  Only television, to be discussed later, comes close in distructive force.
“One final observation has to do with the black community in America.  In the pre-World War II South, from where I originated, the black community delivered its children through its own network of midwives.  The major characteristic of these black communities was their solidarity.  They took care of their own and were in effect, one extended family —which is the key ingredient of any true society.  They took care of each other not just out of the grim necessities for survival but spontaneously out of the bonding function their home birth assured.  I have watched the destruction of the poorer black communitiy’s “extended family” power, which was its strength through centuries of oppression, through the simple act of shifting its birthing from midwifery to hospital charity wards, where new mothers receive atrocious treatment.  And now many of these mothers are unwed teenagers with virtually no family, no support system, no education, no knowledge of birthing or mothering, to say nothing of the influence of drugs, alcohol, and AIDS.  The situation worsens at an alarming rate.

“Several hundred infants a year, of every race, are murdered outright by their parents in New York City alone.  Our national average of infant murder is in the thousands, the average age of the victims from two weks to two years.  One million children a year, from every race, creed, and financial level, are hopitalized as a result of parental abuse.  A disproportionate share of the damage is done to black infants.

“In america, systematic destruction of the bonds between mothers and infants has created a black community at war with itself.  Reports of brain damage, estimated as high as 40 percent, from these hospital practices have been ignored, and in most cases not even published.  The clear and detailed medical studies of autopsies of SIDS victims, 80 percent of whom are black, showing damage due to the violence done to the infant at birth, were ignored.   So far the growing vilence in our black communities has been largely contained within that community.  Black teenagers kill each other with abandon, but there is just as much violence exhibited by black men toward black women, and the anger and fear of women toward their men is all too often taken out on the children.  This was not the case when I was young. We blame it all on drugs, of course, or poverty, neither of which is the case.  Our black communities in the pre-World War II South knew a poverty far more extreme, harsh, and unrelenting than today—yet their solidarity and extended family held them together.  The breakdown we witness today is a result of the violence done both mother and infant at birth — a psychic shock acted out from that point on.  Rather than a cause, the drug taking we see is in itself but one of the many fall-out effects of this basic genetic damage.

“During World War II the precentage of children born in hospitals in America rose from around 30 to 97 percent;  home births were stamped out, midwifery was virtually outlawed, and childbirth became the source of very serious money.  Breast-feeding was discouraged even before this, but after World War II it was considered a cultural embarrassment; and home birth, the common practice before World War II, even more of an embarassment.  Thus the nation’s psyche was split.  Television followed within ten years, then day care came, and shortly after, drugs.

“Today we witness the macabre drama of a horde of lawyers swarming in to feed on the vulture-like obstetrical body that feeds on the dying social body.  Have you sued your OB recently?  This malpractice madness has exacerbated every outrage, increased every invasive technology, and obliterated all remaining common sense.  Dark clouds gather for us and for all those “backward” nations to whom we send out our “life-saving” childbirth interventions.  Japan threw out its ancient midwife system some twenty-five years ago in its major industrial cities, imported all our machinery, and then technologically outdid us; within ten years the violence in schools and homes was epidemic, while the “stress level” and rate of alcoholism skyrocketed in the Japanese work force.  In a two-week lecture tour there, I was asked most often by older people how young mothers could say they didn’t know what to do with their children.  “How can a mother not know how to mother?” these elders asked in bewilderment.  The answer lies in the arrogance of the male intellect in undermining Nature’s wisdom, casting on water a bread returned tenfold.

“I think of our Senate passing a bill that hospitals must teach new mothers how to mother and breast-feed.  Can you imagine teaching a mother cat how to nurse her kittens and care for them?  The tide is possibly turning, though, after all these years.  Jessica Mitford has targeted birth in America, and midwives are beginning to catch on to the devious machinations of the obstetrical intellect and are finding out how to maneuver on legal grounds.  Women who resent the loss of their personal power to the obstetrical world can take a decisive and effective step simply by supporting Midwive’s Alliance of North America.  Our civilization , as well as our species survival is at stake here.”

From “Evolutions End” by Joseph Chilton Pearce


Cruelty in Maternity Wards: Fifty Years Later


Fifty years have passed since a scandal broke over inhumane treatment of laboring women in U.S. hospitals, yet first-person and eyewitness reports document that medical care providers continue to subject childbearing women to verbal and physical abuse and even to what would constitute sexual assault in any other context. Women frequently are denied their right to make informed decisions about care and may be punished for attempting to assert their right to refusal. Mistreatment is not uncommon and persists because of factors inherent to hospital social culture. Concerted action on the part of all stakeholders will be required to bring about systemic reform.

“Cruelty in Maternity Wards” was the title of a shocking article published just over 50 years ago in Ladies’ Home Journal in which nurses and women told stories of inhumane treatment in labor and delivery wards during childbirth (Schultz, 1958). Stories included women being strapped down for hours in the lithotomy position, a woman having her legs tied together to prevent birth while her obstetrician had dinner, women being struck and threatened with the possibility of giving birth to a dead or brain damaged baby for crying out in pain, and a doctor cutting and suturing episiotomies without anesthetic (he had once nearly lost a patient to an overdose) while having the nurse stifle the woman’s cries with a mask.

“The article shook the country and triggered a tsunami of childbirth reform that included the founding of the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics, now known as Lamaze International. Nonetheless, as Susan Hodges (2009) recently noted in her guest editorial published in The Journal of Perinatal Education, despite enormous differences in labor and delivery management, decades later, inhumane treatment remains distressingly common. American childbearing women still suffer mistreatment at the hands of care providers, ranging from failure to provide supportive care to disrespect and insensitivity to denial of women’s right to make informed decisions to common use of harmful medical interventions to outright verbal, physical, and even sexual assault. Furthermore, the more extreme examples are not aberrations but merely the far end of the spectrum. Abuse, moreover, results from factors inherent to the system, which increases the difficulties of implementing reforms.


According to domesticviolence.org (an online resource devoted to helping individuals recognize, address, and prevent domestic violence), domestic violence and emotional abuse encompass “name-calling or putdowns,” “keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends,” “actual or threatened physical harm,” “intimidation,” and “sexual assault” (“Domestic Violence Definition,” 2009, para. 2). In all cases, the intent is to gain power over and control the victim. One could add that perpetrators, obstetric staff or otherwise, feel entitled to exert this control on grounds of the victim’s inferior position vis-a-vis the perpetrator as the following illustrate: …” — J Perinat Educ. 2010 Summer; 19(3): 33-42.



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