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Deja vu for DeKalb Medical protesters

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A group gathered outside of DeKalb Medical Center (DMC) in Decatur to protest policy changes, something which seemed eerily familiar to some of the demonstrators.

 Last August, mothers voiced their concerns after DMC temporarily suspended water birthing. This year, protesters find themselves in a similar fight after the privileges of Brad Bootstaylor, a delivery doctor who many patients believed respected patient autonomy, was suspended.

 Bootstaylor announced via Facebook that he would be leaving the hospital effective June 1.

 Zawn Villines, one of the organizers of the event, said the protest was about more than the suspended privileges of Bootstaylor.

 “We’re here protesting both policy and practice changes at DeKalb Medical Center,” Villines said. “We’ve heard stories that are very troubling. We’ve heard about a lot of coercion of women, we’ve heard that women were denied epidurals as punishment for noncompliance, we’ve heard about women being pressured into C-sections…We feel like the hospital has completely ignored us and they won’t answer our questions.”

 The protest, which took place on May 19, featured more than 30 women, men and children. Villines said the suspension of Bootstaylor has left many women planning to give birth at DeKalb Medical with unanswered questions.

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 “[DeKalb Medical Center] portrays us to the media as a bunch of crazy women, but they won’t talk to us. They have told us nothing about the suspension of [Bootstaylor] and his suspension has left a lot of women’s births in question,” Villines said. “This provider backs up women who have home births, which I realize is controversial, but when you don’t have a provider to back up home births then what happens is women don’t go to the hospital and they get into trouble and women and children can die.”

 DMC released a statement to The Champion regarding its policy and the protest saying, “DeKalb Medical’s obstetrical service is a progressive, high-quality, family-centered program that strives to provide great birth experiences. We embrace the use of midwives, doulas, water immersion for labor and water births for low-risk pregnancies and will soon be among the first hospitals in Atlanta to offer nitrous oxide as an option for pain management. Patient safety is a top priority, so we routinely review our policies around birth options and our policies are aligned with the accepted standards of care.”  

 Some mothers said they had an enjoyable delivery experience at DeKalb Medical and hope the hospital will continue to give women medical options.

 Kari Culverson, a DeKalb County resident who delivered her daughter Orly at DMC, said her experience with the hospital was great. Culverson said the hospital set up a pool so she could attempt water birth.

 Although the water birth wasn’t successful for Culverson, she said she hopes mothers will still have the option in the future.

 “Everything was fine and the nurses were great, and then two weeks after [Orly] was born we heard DMC might ban water births,” Culverson said. “After having such an amazing experience of being allowed to birth as we please, I felt like this is something we wanted to fight for.”

 In a Facebook post, a message from Bootstaylor said DeKalb Medical has made it difficult for women to exercise birth choices.

 “Despite great progress in developing a service there, we remain steadfast in supporting mothers’ choices and DeKalb Medical has made it challenging for us to do this,” wrote Bootstaylor.

 Brittany Knapik, who had both her sons at DMC, said the support staff at the hospital is great, but hopes the administrators at DMC hear and understand the protesters’ concerns.

 “They don’t have any business telling us what to do with our bodies,” Knapik said. “We’re being told what to do by administrators. A lawyer or an administrator has no business in telling me what’s happening to me.”

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