Erstellt am: 3. 5. 2012 - 18:48 Uhr
Dr Agnes Géreb
A couple of weeks ago I was in Budapest to report on the fate of Klubrádió, a talk radio station that was being threatened with closure because of it’s anti-government stance. I met up with Nick Thorpe who’s spent decades reporting from Budapest for international media organisations. Nick also told me about the case of Dr Agnes Géreb. She has spent time in prison for attending home births as a midwife. In fact Nick also belongs to a group supporting her case.
According to the World Health Organisation, Hungary's early mortality rate (of babies aged 0-6 days) is five deaths in every 1,000 live births. On this basis, statistically one would expect Dr Agnes Géreb to experience 17 or 18 babies dying during births that she attended over the course of her career. There have been just three. But this better- than-average figure doesn’t seem to mean very much to the Hungarian obstetric profession who have come down hard on her with the full weight of the state prosecution service. And for Dr Géreb it has meant time spent in prison.
In fact today will be her 500th day of house arrest. She was due to go back to prison yesterday but her lawyer managed to get this prison attendance order suspended until the new president has had time to consider an appeal for clemency. There is much at stake not only for Dr Géreb personally but also for Hungary turning a corner on this issue to allow couples and midwives to proceed with home births under the full protection of the law. So it was timely for an update on where things stand right now on Dr Géreb's situation with Nick Thorpe.
Steve Crilley: What is the situation with home births in Hungary? Currently can parents have a home birth?
In theory they can. The Fidesz government became the only government in the last 20 years to finally pass regulations that moved this issue out of a grey area. It had been that couples could choose to have a birth at home but any medical professional in the past could be prosecuted for helping them to do so. The job of medical professionals was to get women (in later stages of labour) to the nearest hospital. Those rights of parents are still there and they are enshrined in the new regulations. And the possibility of midwives (attending and aiding) is now there too. But there are only a small number of midwives led by and, in many cases trained by Dr Agnes Géreb, who are willing and able to attend home births. And now because of this current wave of criminalization, it’s now pretty much impossible to have a baby at home in Hungary.
So if that is the case (that the laws have been relaxed), why is Dr Géreb still being prosecuted?
What she has run into is a very conservative (with a small “c”) Hungarian obstetric profession, which really believes that births should be induced (in hospital), women should just lie on their backs and grin and bear it. And the obstetric profession has not tolerated at all Dr Agnes Géreb’s work. She’s been criminalized over the past two decades and that’s really concluded with these verdicts against her.
A case for the European Court of Human Rights?
That has already happened to some extent. She already has one case at Strasbourg. But she is considering how best to appeal against the current verdict (a 2 year prison sentence and a 10 year ban). Before they turn to Strasbourg (again) her lawyers are waiting to see what happens with the very last legal possibility of remedy in Hungary, (that is with) the President. And to ask the President for her criminal record to be wiped out and for her to be allowed to continue to practice.
With Hungary's new President, what are the chances of a presidential reprieve?
I think there are reasonable chances but we don’t know yet. He is very new, he was only sworn in on May 2nd, so it will be one of the first decisions of his presidency to decide whether to grant clemency. She has many supporters and I am one of them. All five of my children were born at home with Agnes Géreb so this is a case I have followed personally as well as professionally for many years, that there has been a serious miscarriage of justice, that these cases should not have been prosecuted in the first place, in our opinion.
Full interview on Friday's Reality Check
If you want to read more about Agnes Géreb's case, here is a link to her support group. Click here.
The full interview with Nick Thorpe can be heard here:
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