Yes, it has finally happened! Agnes is now free from house arrest after 3 years, 4 months and 15 days deprived of her liberty. It came about in these last days when the appeal made by Agnes¨s legal team to the severity of the house arrest conditions was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Budapest. The court ordered the house arrest restrictions be removed and ruled that Agnes could now move freely around the city of Budapest and also throughtout the immediate county that the capital is situated within. She is not however, permitted to go beyond this territory nor is she allowed to advise or consult with pregnant women.
Three years is a long time. Three years in confinement is a very long time. Three years in confinement when you have done nothing wrong is a very, very long time. Through prison and house arrest, she has retained her strength, her dignity, her reputation and she has remained true to herself and her beliefs. And so many in Hungary and around the world have remained true to her. Women everywhere see her as someone who has responded to the wishes of birthing mothers. In doing so she has had to face mistreatment and injustice. But the birthing mothers in Hungary who want midwifery-led-care, whether in hospital or at home, are still there and their wishes will not go away.
January, 1998, Parliamentary Human Rights Ombudsman affirmed that the Hungarian Constitution upheld the right of mothers to give birth at home. From 1998 to 2011 homebirth parents and Independent Midwives waited for successive governments to introduce the necessary legislation to support medical services into the home. In the absence of legislation parents wishing to birth at home were forced to choose a birth at home alone without medical support, or forego their constitutional rights and have their babies in hospital. Independent Midwives, led by Dr. Ágnes Geréb, chose to support these parents and, working in an unlicenced capacity, helped deliver over 3,500 safe home births in the last 17 years.
Dr. Ágnes Geréb was arrested and imprisoned on 5 October 2010, in relation to a birth incident, then after 2 and a half months (77 days) of detention she was transferred to house arrest. Dr. Geréb has been in house arrest since then and she is not allowed to leave her home without the permission of the Court. The police check compliance with the house arrest four times a day.
The Prosecutor brought charges against her related to three deliveries and two other crimes (practicing medicine while suspended and incitement to forge public documents). The hearings take place at the Court of Budapest 2nd and 3rd district. The defense lawyer is dr. Gábor Papp, supported by dr. Tamás Bajáky and dr. Bea Bodrogi, the latter also works at the Birth House Association.
Whoever gave birth with my assistance during my prohibition from practicing as an obstetrician knew that I was under prohibition from that activity – and only that one.
I was not under prohibition from working as a psychologist or as a midwife. My activity, although unregulated, was not illegal. Whatever I did during my assistance fell under the competence of a midwife – at every single birth.
Those who gave birth with my assistance have claimed that they did not give me any money in exchange for my assistance. Nor would I ever ask them to or accept it, mind you.
Joint press release of Birthhouse Association and the Justice for Ágnes Geréb Movement (JAGM)
March 21, 2013.
On February 14, 2013, the Committee for the Advancement of Women of the UN (CEDAW) held its four-yearly oral hearing on Hungary about the state measures recently introduced by the State to eliminate discrimination against women. After hearing the government delegation, the Committee published its list of 60 recommendations last week.
Danish foundation “A Good Start in Life” award their 2013 professional prize to Dr. Ágnes Geréb
March, 19th, 2013.
TheDanish Foundation ” A Good Start In Life” have announced the awarding of their prestigious annual professional prize for 2013 to Dr. Ágnes Geréb. The award is being given in recognition of Dr. Geréb’s woman and family-centered activities in supporting natural birth. This is the first time in the 24-year history of the award that it has been given to someone outside of Denmark. The Foundation wishes to personally present Dr. Geréb with the award in Cophenhagen, on June 10, 2013. On the same day, Dr. Geréb has also been invited to speak at an international conference hosted by the Midwifery department at University College Metropol in Copenhagen. The one obstacle facing Dr. Geréb and the Danish organisations involved is that she remains under house arrest conditions which have now applied for almost two and a half years. Her lawyer, Dr. Papp Gábor, has also spoken in this matter.
In 1990 I managed to get to America to study homebirths. Previously I had already succeeded in attending a few homebirths in Hungary and during the time I could spend in America I got reinforced that the path I had stepped on was the right path; that childbirth is childbirth; the same here as there; it does not depend on money or infrastructure. It depends only on how much we are present, how respectfully we can participate both as a helper and as a woman in labour. The main task of the helper is to make complete presence possible for the woman who is giving birth. What does this mean? The place where she feels the safest enables any woman to give birth with the fewest complications. Here in Hungary the majority of women find it necessary that somebody should take professional responsibility for the physiological procedure of the birth. The professional person, the midwife, is present to relieve the woman of the burden of watching the physiological proceedings of the baby and her own body. In most of the cases the midwife has no other tasks. As long as everything goes smoothly besides giving her professional attention the midwife does the same things as everybody else present.
Having been to Budapest several times 2002-2005, shortly after Agnes Gereb lost her license but before the Hungarian authorities put her in jail, our group of American and Canadian midwives has been particularly alarmed by what is now happening to her. This is a short history of childbirth as it merged between North America and Hungary and is both a video letter to Agi