Your Right to Refuse a Cesarean: ICAN’s Guide to VBAC Bans

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The International Cesarean Awareness Network has a guide online for women who are wishing to give birth in one of the hundreds of hospitals in the U.S. that seeks to ban VBAC, either officially or by a de facto ban. The guide is a starting place for the many women who have been told they must “choose unnecessary surgery or forgo hospital care altogether.”

The following is a summary of Your Right to Refuse: What to Do if Your Hospital Has “Banned” VBAC Q & A:


You cannot be forced to undergo surgery.


Protect yourself by:

  • Knowing your rights
  • Filing a grievance with the Chief Compliance Officer at the hospital where you plan to give birth.
  • Replace your birth plan with a customized form documenting your refusal to consent.


A hospital may not refuse to admit you unless if you do not consent to a cesarean thanks to the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which  requires hospitals to admit women in active labor and to abide by their treatment decisions until after the baby and placenta are delivered.


If your care provider ignores your refusal to consent and performs a cesarean anyway, you are within your legal right to file criminal assault and battery charges and, if you or your baby suffer an injury, you may also sue for negligence.


If you challenge your care provider and they drop you from care, they would be doing so in violation of professional ethical guidelines and they can be charged with patient abandonment.


The odds are very good that your care provider or hospital will not seek a court order to perform a cesarean. Both the AMA and ACOG have revised their ethical guidelines to state that court-ordered cesareans are rarely, if ever, justified.


If you want to give birth vaginally in a hospital but are concerned with the stress that this will cause for your family, here are your options:

  • Fight and assert your legal rights
  • Submit to surgery
  • Opt for homebirth


ICAN’s guide suggests that you educate yourself as to the risks and benefits of each option and call a local ICAN chapter if you need help.