President of Hungary János Áder has just granted clemancy (presidential pardon) to physician and independent midwife Dr Ágnes Geréb. Clemency means that Dr Gereb does not have to serve the prison sentence she received a few months ago. However, the President did not remove the legal burden of being a convicted felon, and the long suspension of Dr. Gereb’s medical and midwifery licenses.
HRIC has been following Dr. Gereb’s case from its very beginning. Her story (and ensuing case on the right to assisted home birth at the European Court of Human Rights where her client, Anna Ternovsky, was a party) was instrumental in convening the first Human Rights in Childbirth Conference in the Hague, Netherlands, and the consequent foundation of Human Rights in Childbirth. Her pioneering work in Hungary has helped that country’s maternity system move forward immensely. In the 1970s as a young resident in obstetrics, she helped fathers sneak into hospital birthing rooms and began advocating for more respectful birth practices. Later, in the 1990s she began running independent childbirth education and support services and working as an independent home birth midwife, supporting families who wanted to birth in out of hospital settings.
Dr. Gereb’s statement after the President’s announcement demonstrates her enormous heart and passion for respectful, woman-centred maternity care:
“This act of clemency is about more than me. It is an acknowledgement of liberty in giving birth. It is a recognition by the state that the rights of women to make decisions about the circumstances of their children’s birth must be acknowledged.”