Marian Tompson Advocates for Home Birth Rights

The Plowboy interview features Marian Tompson, head of the home birth movement's legal aid organization. New legislation is threatening home birth rights.

| September/October 1982

New legislation threatens the home birth movement and home birth rights. 

Home Birth Rights Under Siege

Last Mother's Day, a dedicated but grim assemblage of physicians, midwives, nursing mothers, and other parents gathered in Washington, D. C. And whereas most birth activist groups are upbeat educational organizations, the individuals assembled for the D. C. conference had come simply to fight . . . to protect the rights of those who want to have, or participate in, home births.  

This organization, the Alternative Birth Crisis Coalition, was formed in 1981 . . . in response to what its members perceived as a recent nationwide increase in the persecution (and prosecution) of people involved in out-of-hospital delivery of babies. And anyone who attended the May ABCC gathering (and listened to the accounts of doctors who've lost their medical licenses, attendants who've been accused of infant murder, and parents who've had their newborn children taken away from them) soon realized that the birth-at-home option is being attacked by powerful societal forces . . . and that this small coalition of parents' rights advocates is going to have its hands full trying to halt the growing trend toward compulsory hospitalization in this country.  

The moods of many of the day's speakers reflected that gloomy outlook. Several individuals spoke darkly of repression, civil disobedience, and even martyrdom. Yet the conference's final speaker, the executive director of ABCC, managed both to be realistic about the battle ahead and to speak, with joy, of the love of children and families that motivated every member of the group. This person, Marian Tompson, is the subject of our Plowboy Interview.  

Besides heading the home birth movement's sole legal aid organization, Ms. Tompson has had a lot of personal experience with out-of-hospital births: Not only were four of her seven children born at home, but three of those offspring have returned to Marian's house to have their own babies! This home birth grandmother has also had a good bit of experience in helping people fight family-weakening social trends . . . in fact, 25 years ago she became the founder and president of La Leche League International, the women's breastfeeding education and support network that changed nursing one's own child from a dying art (in North America) to what is now the medically sanctioned and popularly accepted way to nourish the young. La Leche League began with a group of seven mothers who simply wanted to help each other deal with the sometimes difficult task of breastfeeding. Today, LLLI has 12,000 chapters in 43 countries, and Ms. Tompson herself has been flown as a nursing consultant to places as widespread as Jamaica, Switzerland, and India.  

MOTHER sent staffer Pat Stone up to Washington to attend the ABCC conference and to spend a day talking with this matriarch of the breastfeeding — and now — the home birth movement. Pat reports:  

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