CIMS response to The Today Show

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services has written a fantastic response (pdf) to the horrid hit job disguised as journalism that was the Today Show’s The Perils of Midwifery (link to video) . I am reposting it here:

Sept. 23, 2009

Dear Producers of The Today Show,

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) and the undersigned organizations are disappointed with The Today Show’s misrepresentation of midwives and home birth that aired on Sept. 11, in a segment titled “The Perils of Midwifery,” later changed to “The Perils of Home Birth.” This biased and sensational segment inaccurately implied that hospitals are the safest place to give birth even for low-risk women and mischaracterized women who choose a home birth with a midwife as “hedonistic,” going so far as to suggest that these women are putting their birth experiences above the safety of their babies. Neither could be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, The Today Show did not do its homework on the evidence regarding the safety of home birth and midwifery care. The segment featured an obstetrician who presented only the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) position in opposition to home birth, but it did not make any attempt to present the different viewpoints held by the many organizations that are committed to improving the quality of maternity care in the US. We are deeply saddened that the show did not take the opportunity to note that both CIMS and The National Perinatal Association respect the rights of women to choose home births and midwifery care, and that the respected Cochrane Collaboration recommends midwifery care because it results in excellent outcomes.
There is no evidence to support the ACOG position that hospital birth for low-risk women is safer than giving birth with midwives at home. What the research does show is that the routine use of medical interventions in childbirth without medical necessity can cause more harm than good, while also inflating the cost of childbirth. However, the current health system design offers little incentive for physicians and hospitals to improve access to maternity care practices that have been proven to maximize maternal and infant health.

“Birth is safest when midwives and doctors work together respectfully, communicate well, and when a transfer from home to hospital is needed, it is appropriately handled,” says Ruth Wilf, CNM, PhD, a member of the CIMS Leadership Team.

That is why the national health services of countries such as Britain, Ireland, Canada, and the Netherlands support home birth. In those countries, midwives are respected and integrated into the maternity care system. They work collaboratively with physicians in or out of the hospital, and they are not the target of modern day witch hunts. These countries have better outcomes for mothers and babies than the US.

Childbirth is the leading reason for admission to US hospitals, and hospitalization is the most costly health care component. Combined hospital charges for birthing women and newborns ($75,187,000,000 in 2004) far exceed charges for any other condition. In 2004, fully 27% of hospital charges to Medicaid and 16% of charges to private insurance were for birthing women and newborns, the most expensive conditions for both payers. The burden on public budgets, taxpayers and employers is considerable.

As US birth outcomes continue to worsen, it should come as no surprise to The Today Show that childbearing women are seeking alternatives to standard maternity care. After all, American women and babies are paying the highest price of all—their health—for these unnecessary interventions, which include increasing rates of elective inductions of labor and cesarean sections without medical indication.

To the detriment of childbearing families, the segment “The Perils of Midwifery” totally disregarded the evidence. Although the reporters acknowledged that research shows home birth for low-risk women is safe, that message was overshadowed by many negative messages, leaving viewers with a biased perception of midwifery care and home birth. CIMS makes these points not to promote the interests of any particular profession, but rather to raise a strong voice in support of maternity care practices that promote the health and well-being of mothers and babies.

One of the ten Institute of Medicine recommendations for improving health care is to provide consumers with evidence-based information in order to help them make informed decisions. The Institute recommends that decisions be made by consumers, not solely by health care providers. The Institute maintains that transparency and true choice are essential to improving health care. We remain hopeful that the medical community will soon recognize the rights of childbearing women when it comes to their choices in childbirth and will respect and support these choices in the interest of the best possible continuity and coordination of care for all.
We urge The Today Show to provide childbearing women with fair and accurate coverage of this important issue by giving equal time to midwives, public health professionals, researchers of evidence-based maternity care, and especially to parents who have made choices about different models of care and places of birth.


Coalition for Improving Maternity Services

Academy of Certified Birth Educators
Alaska Birth Network
Alaska Family Health and Birth Center
American Association of Birth Centers
American College of Community Midwives
American College of Nurse-Midwives
Bay Area Birth Information
Birth Network of Santa Cruz County
Birth Works International
Birthing From Within, LLC
BirthNetwork National
BirthNetwork of Idaho Falls
BirthNetwork of NW Arkansas
Choices in Childbirth
Citizens for Midwifery
Doulas Association of Southern California
Evansville BirthNetwork
Harmony Birth & Family
Idaho Midwifery Council
Idahoans for Midwives
InJoy Birth and Parenting Education
International Childbirth Education Association
International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization
Island Families of Micronesia
Lamaze International
Madison Birth Center
Midwives Alliance of North America
Motherbaby International Film Festival
Nashville BirthNetwork
National Association of Certified Professional Midwives
North American Registry of Midwives
Ohana Island Care-Guam
Oklahoma BirthNetwork
Our Bodies Ourselves
Perinatal Education Associates, Inc.
Reading Birth & Women’s Center
Rochester Area Birth Network
Sage Femme
The Big Push for Midwives Campaign
The Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation
Triangle Birth Network
Truckee Meadows BirthNetwork

About Us

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) is a coalition of individuals and national organizations with concern for the care and wellbeing of mothers, babies, and families. Our mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs. The CIMS Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative is an evidence-based mother-, baby-, and family-friendly model of care which focuses on prevention and wellness as the alternatives to high-cost screening, diagnosis, and treatment programs.


1. The Perils of Home Births,
2. Birth Can Safely Take Place at Home and in Birthing Centers,
3. Offers All Birthing Mothers Unrestricted Access to Birth Companions, Labor Support, Professional Midwifery Care,
4. ACOG Place of Birth Policies Limit Women’s Choices Without Justification and Contrary to the Evidence,
5. Ratifiers and Endorsers of The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative,
6. Choice of Birth Setting,
7. Position Statement on Midwifery,
8. Midwife-led versus other models of care for childbearing women,
9. Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is And What It Can Achieve,
10. Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices,
11. Millennium Development Goals Indicators, United Nations,
12. National Vital Statistics System, Birth Data,
13. Induction By Request,
14. Cesarean Birth By Request,
15. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century,
16. The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative,


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14 responses to “CIMS response to The Today Show

  1. CableGirl

    Sadly, I’d be shocked to the core if ever any kind of retraction were mentioned by the show.

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  3. Very interesting…Thanks for posting this.

    Several things come to mind:
    Hospital births DO result in unnecessary ‘medical procedures’ & increased C-section outcomes. However, the video clip is correct in reporting that OB’s practice this way as a defense against law suits. The answer here? Tort Reform.

    I was a patient of, & then worked for an OB-Gyn practice who employed 3 midwives, that delivered @ the hospital. Very nice option that I anticipated choosing, but for an emergency situation (HELLP sydrome which developed quite rapidly). Had I not been in a hospital setting, the c-section which truly saved my life & my baby’s, I would have died a terrible, horrible death (x3. 3 children – 3 HELLP syndromes. My MD’s had NEVER seen a case like mine – lucky me!). Long live hospital care! But everyone has their issues, right?

    About the letter that you printed here: it’s very well written & I personally agree with their complaint. It represents a valid point of view, & gives a voice to thousands of women who would be powerless against the Media Machine, otherwise. I would hope that NBC would do something to repair the messages that they promulgated, but like your first commenter, I highly doubt it. (If history is any indication of future behavior, & I believe it is.)

    It’s interesting to note, that so many men/women on the street people (progressives, mostly) do not believe that MSM bias exists. It’s quite telling, isn’t it, that the same groups (perhaps not the ones cited above) who refuse to acknowledge blatant & pervasive media bias among the MSM, will be the first to complain when they become the target of such?

    • MomTFH

      Thanks for your story and your points.

      One thing, though. I don’t think MSM bias is a monolithic thing. I think most liberals I interact with complain about media bias all the time. I don’t think we would necessarily agree it is a “liberal” media bias, and I don’t think it is in this case above. I complain about the New York Times, even, for putting women’s health and business issues in the “Style” section.

      I don’t think any of the groups mentioned above are known for denying media bias at all, and I am rather confused by your last point. It seems like a random attempt to poke at liberals tagged on to a great comment about how this letter is an example of a good, well thought out nuanced complaint about media bias.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the comment, though sorry you are confused by the last paragr.

    “I don’t think MSM bias is a monolithic thing.”
    I wouldn’t have used this adjective, but I’ll go w/ it. I do believe liberal bias is pervasive – I see it everywhere from TV (Chris Matthews openly admitting his aim to ‘help the Obama get elected’ Keith Olbermann/Rachel Maddow, to print (NYTimes neglecting to cover the recent, very HOT story about ACORN & my own local paper skewing it’s coverage by simple word choice, to regular Hollywood sitcoms. BUT this story was not an example thereof.

    Perhaps I didn’t convey my thoughts clearly enough (obviously). My last paragraph was not ‘random,’ but rather an observation of the irony that conservatives are brushed aside when they claim liberal MSM bias, but this group is validated (as they should be) when they claim the same (bias, not liberal bias). If MSM manipulates & biases their presentation of stories (& they do), then their lack of journalistic integrity should be called out each time. This politically neutral group did so quite well, & I applaud them for it. It’s not received with such honor & respect when conservative ’causes’ do the same – and it should be.

    “I don’t think we would necessarily agree it is a “liberal” media bias.” Of course not! Liberals won’t perceive it, b/c they will simply hear it as ‘truth,’ b/c they happen to agree.

    Media bias is a very powerful thing whether it misconstrues important issues such as women’s health, or discounts hundreds of thousands of protesters in the Nation’s Capital. Our national media – the Today Show, et., al – should be more professional & responsible with their ‘freedom’ & how they use it.

    Does that help w/ the point I was making?

    • MomTFH

      Not really. First of all, why list Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann but ignore Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough, two prominent conservatives the same channel? I would never deny that their Keith and Rachel’s shows have a liberal slant, but they are not even a whole channel, much less the whole media. What about FOX News? Or Lou Dobbs on CNN? And the New York Post? And the Wall Street Journal?

      Secondly, I fail to see its relevance to my post. This post was about a very specific topic, which you talked about very clearly in the beginning of your post. I am really missing what this has to do with the “liberal bias” meme.

      Third, liberal criticize the media all the time. How about checking out Media Matters? That’s one of my favorite sources of liberal critique of the media.

      And fourth, this idea that the MSM is somehow monolithic and in the pocket of the liberals is ridiculous, especially to anyone who was alive in the post 9/11 era or through this town hall season.

      • MomTFH

        This is a major hijack, but you touched a nerve, so I am running with this.

        ACORN, huh?

        As for ACORN, I have seen coverage of that from MSNBC to NPR. Want to talk about media bias? Conservative sources saying liberal sources don’t cover stories that they cover all the time. They covered the 9/12 rally. They covered this ACORN amateur video.

        How about this story about Wackenhut’s private contracting firm that is hired to protect our embassy in Afghanistan? They were the ones actually performing the sexual misconduct. One of the guards had to be physically dragged from a brothel while being paid to be on duty by our taxpayer money to guard our embassy.

        All of the money paying Wackenhut comes from taxpayers. Are you outraged? Their guards were bragging about RUNNING brothels. Not just reacting to people showing up talking about them, but being the johns and the pimps themselves. Are your news sources covering this?

        How about this story about the woman being gang raped at Halliburton and then locked in a storage container? It hasn’t even been prosecuted. Do you know where all of their money comes from? Taxpayers. Cheney was the acting CEO of Halliburton.

        ACORN is funded less than 5% by taxpayers. They are a loose organization of community activists almost completely funded by donations. Apparently they have some poorly trained people and a systemic problem with lower level employees. They don’t guard our embassies. They don’t guard the green zone.

        What is the big story here? Obama worked with them? He doesn’t train their lower level employees today. Should we start blaming GW Bush for any steroid use in the locker room of the Texas Rangers? Hey, he was the owner!

        With everything that is wrong today, including the subject of my original post, this ACORN outrage makes me sick. I am so sorry they work with low income neighborhoods and people of color. How infuriating that must be. They register voters. They reported misconduct of their own employees, unlike this conservative group. This is not the crime of the century. Get some perspective.

  5. Ouch. I guess I did touch a nerve. Apparently you’re not used to conservatives reading/commenting on your site? — A blog that I stumbled upon doing some research or other — which I think is very informative, interesting & stimulating. Your political perspective is not my cup of tea, but that’s ok w/ me.

    My original intent was not to have an argument w/ you over bias in the media. As stated above, my intent was to AGREE that bias & manipulation DOES occur & journalists should be held accountable for what/how they report, & also for how they conceal facts which would give the public the broader perspective that they need, expect & deserve — as women do re: midwifery. (Also, I attempted to identify the irony, as stated above, which was interesting to me – I apologize that such insulted your sensibilities.)

    In the maintstream media (primarily network news), the bias has been left of center for so long that when Fox appeared w/ its centrist/center-right portrayal, it was deemed ‘conservative’ (hear the viscious raspy whisper here…) by comparison. Thank heaven we finally have a perspective other than left, through which we have to tease in order to get ‘just the facts, ma’am.’

    We could play ping pong w/ examples if you really want to, but I’d rather not waste your time or mine.

    My original point – words, images, tone, ‘slant’ of interview questions all contribute to manipulation of a subject, as in the piece in your post. When our journalists are so blind to it (from all perspectives – left & right, but much more heavily left) that they can’t see what they’re doing is unethical (think Dan Rather & actions precipitating early ‘retirement’), then we have a real problem w/ ‘freedom of the press’… which extends beyond politics into serious health concerns like the one you posted about, which I commented on, which was my whole point.

    No hijack intended, friend.

    (Boy, am I glad I didn’t comment on Jimmy Carter…)

    • MomTFH

      Conservatives do post on my blog. I don’t have a problem with conservatives en masse. I have a problem with the points you were making, and I think I more than adequately argued them specifically.

      I just am really well versed on politics. I don’t hear basic regurgitated shallow talking points and roll over. And, I don’t take kindly to someone taking a post about midwifery and using it to pretty much say I am a hypocrite for both being progressive and criticizing the media. This is my living room, figuratively. I think it was an off topic insult, and inaccurate to boot. And when you start dropping basic culture war talking points like ACORN (that were completely false) on a completely unrelated post, come on. I don’t like conservatives posting? You’re shitting in my living room!

      I completely disagree with your perspective on the liberal bias of the media, and think it is laughable that you somehow think Fox is centrist and only seems conservative compared to the vast left wing media bias. My blog isn’t a place for such nonsense, and you can pretend there is more of a problem with the left media than the right media on your own blog.

      Before you comment on Jimmy Carter, I have no less than three posts up from the past week on race, white privilege and racism denialism.

      Let’s just say I would take less kindly to you pretending that there is no racism against Obama than you pretending that Fox News is somehow centrist.

      There are a few links on my latest race post – one is a white privilege test. Why don’t you take it, then follow the links to the strong clinical research about the pervasive health problems caused by institutional racism in my pet peeve post, and also follow the links about the various slurs and props and racist images being used to slur Obama. Then, if you still feel the need to say racism is not a problem in our country, while the music to “Barack the Magic Negro” are still ringing in your head, if you dare do it on here, I will argue you with evidence as clearly as I did on the hijack of your imaginary media bias.

  6. “Conservatives do post on my blog.” That’s good to know.

    “I just am really well versed on politics” So I see. So am I.

    “taking a post about midwifery and using it to pretty much say I am a hypocrite for both being progressive and criticizing the media” That’s NOT what I said. You were absolutely correct to criticize the media. Further, I don’t know you well enough to say whether you do or don’t criticize them for other types of bias. I was making an observation, which I thought was ironic – NOT referring to you personally (did I use ANY reference to hypocrisy=you or your blog?

    “I think it was an off topic insult” So I gathered, which is why I apologized to you.

    “basic culture war talking points like ACORN…” My use of that as an example was ‘related’ to your post insomuch as I was answering YOUR question from the previous comment. Shall I answer your questions & not use any specifics?

    “that were completely inaccurate, by the way” Sorry. I disagree.
    “come on. I don’t like conservatives posting? You’re shitting in my living room!” Per your request, only.

    “Before you comment on Jimmy Carter, I have no less than three posts up from the past week on race, white privilege and racism denialism.”
    Which I read, found very interesting – some points w/ which I agree, some made me question/think, some I found a bit over the top – but that’s normal, I think.

    “Let’s just say I would take less kindly to you pretending that there is no racism against Obama than you pretending that Fox News is somehow centrist.”
    Oh, thanks. How veryforward-thinking of you. You find that we disagree, so somehow that translates into what I WOULD HAVE said about Jimmy Carter was racist?How ’bout watch your “How to tell people they sound racist” video again & then examine what you just did to me. And you don’t even know what I would have said! Please.

    “Then, if you still feel the need to say racism is not a problem in our country,”
    I have never, would never say such a thing. You assume that I would – that’s your problem. Perhaps there’s more of problem with “reverse racism” than you thought…in your own living room.

    “while the music to “Barack the Magic Negro” are still ringing in your head…”
    I have no idea what you’re even talking about.

    Dear friend, watch your video “How to tell people they sound racist” again, & then tell me that I’m wrong: what you just did to me “sounds” very, very racist – against me – and ugly.

    My blog is no place for ‘such nonsense’ as that which was just inflicted upon me here….I think I’ll return home.

    • MomTFH

      I’m sorry, did you just call me a racist?

      I am not going to bother answering any of the other new stuff, since it is as senseless as the other unrelated unproven points you made. I do want to say none of this was “per my request”.

      Plus, you ignore it every time I successfully argue your points (like, I heard about the ACORN video on MSNBC and NPR. Therefore, your point about ACORN is inaccurate. It is not a difference of opinion). I am a progressive. Calling progressives “ironic” for ignoring media bias (which I don’t) is calling me, a progressive, a hypocrite for posting this.

      This is your last post post. Thanks for playing.

  7. Wow…that woman was…special.

  8. Pingback: Reply turned post, heart heavy but not too heavy style « Mom’s Tinfoil Hat

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