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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Power of a Word

  In the natural childbirth movement there is a term that hits far too close to home.

  Birth Rape is a term used by home-birth advocates to describe what they see as violations that occur when giving birth in a hospital setting. Some women do indeed experience traumatic births. There are doctors who seem cold and disconnected, episiotomies, and an audience.

  According to advocate Amity Reed, it is something sinister. She describes hospital birth in the following way :
"Fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors ... these are the tools of birth rape and they are wielded with as much force and as little consent as if a stranger grabbed a passer-by off the street and tied her up before having his way with her."

  Now I will agree that some instances of hospital birth, and birth in general can be traumatizing. Women are at their most vulnerable. Some of the experiences I've read about do indeed sound like an awful way for a child to enter the world. There are bad doctors, and in some instances women who do not seem to understand that the birth experience is not a painless, pretty thing. Childbirth can be a pretty awful way to spend a Sunday, but it isn't rape.

  Rape is something entirely different. I know this because I've experienced it (And yes Whoopi, it was 'rape rape', actually more like 'rape rape rape rape'.) Rape is a weapon of war or power. It is a dehumanizing hate crime that often leaves its victims with permanent mental or physical injuries, forced pregnancies, diseases, and even death. If you ask any of the mothers in Congo or Bosnia whether there childbirths and involuntary violations were the same thing, every one of them would reply that it is not. While you may not consent to every specific procedure, you did volunteer to bring a child into the world. For the most part childbirth is an option while being attacked in the worst way by 4 miscreants who are trying to kill you is not.

  The concept that a life-saving Caesarean Section is the same thing as the worst possible experience that can happen to a human being is insulting. Calling traumatic birth rape actually increases the amount of trauma that the person may feel. Difficult births do happen but casting them in the same light as a grotesque sexual violation turns a doctor into a potential rapist- a term that is undignified at the least and slanderous to be sure. The term Birth Rape is a deliberate attempt by natural-birth advocates to demonize physicians and cause fear in already scared women.

  There are few things I've found more repugnant than the use of a metaphor such as rape to represent something that it is clearly not. This is an inappropriate insult to every human who has survived the real thing and unnecessarily cruel to women who choose to give birth in hospitals. This is an inaccurate representation used as a ploy by women's advocates who should know better.

  We must get this repulsive term out of the mainstream.


  1. Although I do believe that extreme medical intervention during delivery is completely over done in America calling it Birth Rape degrades everyone involved. How would you feel if you grew up thinking your mother equated bringing you into the world in such a way. I would feel guilty. I feel guilty enough that every year on my birthday Mother reminds me that I had a 15 inch head. The birth of my daughter did not go as I would have liked but no matter what I had to agree to get her here healthy I was HAPPY to agree to it. I would never refer to the joy of welcoming her into the world as Birth Rape.

  2. And I see the "natural-birth movement" is now doing its part to control womens' bodies and take away our power of choice.
    Mustn't leave women alone nope.. must use manipulation by means of Appeal to Emotion (a fallacy) to make women act in a way the "natural-birth" jerks want.
    And how do they define unnatural birth? All births are natural in that all births are still performed by the woman's body.
    They're just being headline-grabby. And doing the Gimme-Power-Over-Women dance.

    They are as useful as testicle sweat. End of Line.

  3. My mum said that the term is awful and makes children enemies, accessories to something that sounds criminal.

    I dare say I agree with her on this.

  4. This is just absurd. Not to mention, the very idea that ANY woman would think that this is a form of rape just takes my words away.

  5. When I had my son, my doctor was unnecessarily cruel and forced my son's birth which caused severe bleeding and I almost died. I would venture to call that birth rape because he viciously yelled degrading statements at me while he forced my child out of my body in only 3 of my own voluntarily pushes. \I ripped inside and out. I was expecting the most painful experience of my life, what I was not expecting was a sadist to go against the birth plan that had been gone over with him at several appointments prior to the birth.
    Even though that specific doctor was so abusive that I almost died as a direct result of his actions, if I decide to have another baby, I will still go to the hospital so that I can be as near life saving measures as possible for the health of my baby and myself.

  6. Having given birth twice in hospitals, I must say I vehemently disagree. First of all, I take great offence to people presuming that those trained in Western Medicine are out to horrify, hurt, and humiliate people. Contrary to somewhat popular belief, doctors are not out to "get you". Get over yourselves. To equate any childbirth with rape is to say that your child had a part in your rape. How horrifying.

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