The District of Columbia’s only independent birthing center substantially reduced rates of Caesarean sections and preterm deliveries, saving the health-care system more than $800,000 a year, the Washington Post reported Dec. 21. Ruth Watson Lubic, founder and chair of the Family Birthing Center, presented the financial projections this fall.

The nonprofit Family Birthing Center of the Washington County Health System provides gynecological and obstetrical services, as well as parenting advice to women and general health services to children. In addition to these services, an increasing number of prenatal patients are choosing to deliver in its birthing rooms. The remaining pregnant women give birth at Washington Hospital Center, accompanied by one of the center’s seven midwives.

According to preliminary 2006 numbers, the staff seems likely to celebrate a record number of newborns, which exceeds the 153 births last year, as well as the greatest percentage of births delivered away from the hospital. Through mid-October, less than 5 percent of those infants had arrived before 37 weeks and only 2 percent were considered low birth weight. Only 7 percent of their mothers had Cesarean sections. By comparison, in 2004, Caesarean sections accounted for 29 percent of all U.S. births.

As a lifelong nurse and midwife, Lubic says that the trust and communication that develop between patients and midwives during prenatal appointments translates into better health outcomes for babies.

“If we don’t help women feel good about their ability to give birth, then they’re not going to feel so good about their ability to mother,” she said. Conversely, “there’s nothing better than a birth well done to raise self esteem.”

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Three Republicans and 107 Democratic House representatives have called for Dr. Eric Keroack to be removed from his post overseeing the government’s distribution of $283 million in family planning grants, Reuters reported Dec. 20. President Bush selected Keroack, a prominent anti-choice activist, as a deputy secretary of the Health and Human Services Department Nov. 16 in a move that was widely criticized by reproductive rights activists. “We are telling this administration that it needs to get its act together in providing real assistance to low-income families to protect women and children,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, who drafted the letter.
  • The Iraqi women’s nongovernmental organization Khansa organized a conference on religious tolerance and dialogue in Najaf in response to growing sectarian violence, the Middle East Times reported Dec. 18. About 90 human rights activists and journalists, mostly women, as well as clerics from Baghdad, Najaf and Babel attended the event to speak out against violence and to call for unity among Sunni and Shia Muslims and Christians. Another conference will be held in January.
  • A woman’s health center organized a candlelight vigil on the Atlantic City boardwalk where the bodies of four murdered prostitutes were found near a drainage ditch. The action was meant to bring attention to violence against women, the Trentonian newspaper reported Dec. 19. “A lot of the press coverage, because of the women’s lifestyle, has made it sound as if they were somehow throwaway victims,” said Claudia Ratzlaff, executive director of Atlantic County Women’s Center. “We are here to give a voice to the most recent victims of crime against women, to mourn their deaths and to acknowledge the value of their lives as mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.”
  • Sex workers in the Indian state of West Bengal are being shown how to use female condoms in efforts to stem the spread of HIV-AIDS, a first in India, officials said Dec. 19, according to GG2.net, an Indian news site. A three-day training program has already started in Kolkata, and the program will be launched in another eight states next year. A condom normally costs around $1, but will be made available to sex workers for 7 cents.
  • Hundreds of impoverished Muslim women are also flocking to India’s only all-female hospital in the eastern city of Kolkata to seek advice on family planning, preventing HIV/AIDS and other ailments, Reuters reported Dec. 22. Doctors and patients at Mission Hospital say that conservative Muslim women are more comfortable discussing these issues in a female-only environment. A study released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh revealed last month that Muslim women who wear face veils or burkas reported facing hostility at hospitals, markets and schools. India is home to the world’s second largest Muslim population behind Indonesia.


In India, lawmakers and women’s rights activists are calling on the government to protect female fetuses, the Associated Press reported Dec. 18. A Dec. 5 report from UNICEF found that 7,000 girls in India each year are not born due to “male child mania,” and are aborted illegally.

Overall, India’s billion-plus population has roughly 800 females to 1,000 males. UNICEF’s report attributed the skewed gender ratio as a contributing factor in the early marriage of girls, early deaths as a result of childbirth complications and lower levels of education. The report also said the gender bias could result in more violence against girls and women.

“Female feticide should be treated as a crime and not just a social evil, therefore stringent punishment and punitive action is required,” said Renuka Choudhury, India’s minister of women and child development.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • All but one woman seeking political office in the United Arab Emirates failed to win in the second round of the Gulf country’s first elections for the Federal National Council, Agence France Presse reported Dec. 18. Amal Abdullah al-Kubaissi of Abu Dhabi is the first woman to be elected from the Dec. 16 election. None of the 15 female candidates in Dubai won. Altogether, there were 63 female candidates out of a pool of 438.
  • Nearly one-third of 1,283 displaced women in South Darfur met criteria for major depressive disorder, while double that number reported symptoms of depression, reported International Medical Corps in a study to be published in the January 2007 edition of the American Journal of Public Health. One of every 20 women surveyed reported suicidal thoughts and 2 percent said they had attempted suicide. Mental health services for displaced persons in Sudan have been minimal, aside from those offered by a few international relief groups.
  • An alliance of priests and conservative politicians wants to make all abortion in Poland illegal, Reuters reported Dec. 13. Poland already has some of the toughest abortion laws in Europe, allowing abortion only when a pregnancy threatens the life or health of the mother, when the fetus is likely to be permanently handicapped or when the pregnancy originates from a rape.


Ninety-five percent of Americans have sex before marriage, including those who abstained from sex during their teen years, the New York-based Guttmacher Institute announced Dec. 19. According to a new study that uses data from several rounds of the federal National Survey of Family Growth, among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81 percent had premarital sex by age 44.

Irene Lew is editorial intern and Nouhad Moawad is Arabic intern for Women’s eNews.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].

Family Birthing Center, Washington County Health System:

“Missing Daughters on an Indian Mother’s Mind”:

Guttmacher Institute, “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States,

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