Tonight I saw "Born in Brazil," a documentary about the soaring c-section rate in that country. It became very clear to me how much class has affected the rates there in a couple ways. First, poor women give birth in nasty public hospitals where they labor alone. Of course, they all aspire to the private hospitals, where doctors like to perform c-sections because they can charge for them. Another wrinkle: Abortion is illegal there, and poor women have the worst access to birth control, but a woman can get a tubal ligation when she is having a section. Sigh.
The screening was part of a panel I was on at Wheaton College. I was joined by Megan McCullough, an anthropology professor there, who had studied aboriginal women in Queensland, Australia, who at 39 weeks, would get flown far away to give birth, again removed from family. They, too, have very high c-section rates.