Are VBAC Ban's Legal?

If I had a dime for every piece of misinformation I have heard in the past three years about VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) I would be rich!  Unfortunately for mothers all over the country, and world, this misinformation is often louder and more wide spread than the real information.

I have heard comments like VBAC is illegal in certain states, which is a blatant lie!  It is not illegal to give birth vaginally anywhere… can you imagine if it was?  What in the heck?!

There is also conflicting information on the legality of hospitals banning VBAC since 1/3 of hospitals across the country currently do not allow the procedure.

In my own personal research I found a lot of great information from The International Cesarean Awareness Network, which is a world wide support group for mothers who have had previous cesarean births.  One of the most useful pieces of information I came across is their informative white paper on your right to refuse surgery, and what to do if your local hospital has banned VBAC.

First things first!  The question many women want to have answered… Can a provider force a mother to undergo surgery… whether it be a repeat c-section, or a c-section in general during labor.  And the answer to that is no! As a patient, you have the legal right to refuse any treatment you do not agree with, which includes a c-section. From the ICAN white paper:

The doctrine of informed refusal is upheld by common law, case law, Constitutional law, federal law, state law, state mandated medical ethics and the ethical guidelines of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Simple enough!   No matter what someone tells you… there are laws regarding your own choices as a patient, and a c-section just happens to be one of them!

Another question and concern I have heard a lot is about hospitals refusing to care for women in active labor unless they consent to cesarean surgery, if they have had one or more previous c-sections which is also illegal under federal law.

The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requires hospitals to admit women in active labor and to abide by their treatment decisions until after the baby and placenta are delivered.
The act was originally designed to prevent hospitals from “dumping” patients who couldn’t pay but has since been widely used to hold hospitals accountable for violating other patient rights, including the right to refuse treatment. If your hospital threatens to perform a cesarean despite your refusal, notify them that they are in violation of your rights under EMTALA and that you plan to file a complaint. To find out where to report an EMTALA violation, go to MedLaw.

Meaning, no matter what someone tells you, these are your rights. Whether or not you can pay, or simply want to make your own choices for birth, including VBAC, it is your right. Period!

So in a nut shell, while hospitals certainly can have a VBAC ban it is illegal, and unethical for them to enforce, especially in the case of a mother challenging the validity of their ban.

photo: getty images

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