About the Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition
The Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition (GBAC) is committed to changing Georgia’s birth culture by expanding birth options, educating birthing people about their rights, and ensuring providers meet their obligations to patients. We believe that abuse, trauma, and other negative birth outcomes thrive when people are ignorant about their rights. Knowledge empowers birthing people to insist on quality care, to trust their instincts, and to fight back against abuse and negligent treatment.
Our primary goal is to empower birthing people to understand, protect, and assert their legal rights.
GBAC fights for the right of birthing people to birth safely, on their own terms, free of trauma and abuse. We believe that the postpartum period should be a time of connection and recovery, not isolation and sadness. A healthy society requires healthy parents. That begins with good pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences.
Georgia leads the nation in maternal deaths. While other nations have seen maternal mortality plummet, the U.S. is experiencing a surge in maternal deaths. Women in the United States are routinely coerced into medical interventions with the promise that these interventions improve safety. Instead, our nation now has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world.
These deaths are not inevitable. The lives lost due to pregnancy and birth matter. Maternal deaths leave holes in families, communities, and the broader society.
The Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition (GBAC) is on a mission to ensure all birthing people have access to quality care, to choice and autonomy in birth, and to a wide range of providers. We believe that birthing people own birth, and that birth should be neither traumatic nor lethal.
We are committed to developing and implementing strategies that shift the balance of power in birth. Women should not be afraid of their doctors. They should not feel intimidated at the hospital. Georgia’s hospitals have failed women. It’s time for them to be held accountable so they can do better. A culture of accountability, in which women know and fearlessly assert their rights, is the only way things can change.
Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition Story
The Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition story began in 2016 when its founder, Zawn Villines, was expecting her first child. When Zawn was 36 weeks pregnant, the hospital at which she planned to give birth radically altered its birth policies. Dozens of women had carefully discussed their birth options with their doctor, only to be told by a hospital lawyer that they must instead follow the recommendations of the hospital administration.
Zawn was heartbroken and scared. The sudden change was so outrageous and upended so many people’s lives that she felt certain someone would do something. While many national organizations offered help, no one with Georgia-specific knowledge was able to intervene. So Zawn quit sleeping and started planning. Within a few days, she had recruited more than 1,000 women to participate in a protest. Her husband, Jeff Filipovits, is a respected local civil rights attorney who specializes in Constitutional issues. Drawing upon that knowledge, Jeff began working on a lawsuit. After less than a week, the hospital agreed to meet with Zawn, Jeff, and a small group of women.
Under the threat of multiple lawsuits, a public relations disaster, and a massive protest, the hospital reversed course and agreed to again let women and doctors—not hospital lawyers—make decisions. But when women across the state began contacting Zawn and Jeff seeking help to deal with a wide range of birth issues, they knew they had to create a more permanent organization.
That organization became the Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition. We believe that changing birth culture in Georgia requires knowledge of Georgia’s legal, medical, and cultural idiosyncrasies. We’re on a mission to use that knowledge to make Georgia the best and safest place in the nation to give birth.
We’re a relatively new organization, still in the process of pursuing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. As of now, we are entirely funded by Zawn and Jeff. We do not currently accept donations because we believe that organizations should only accept funding once they are able to offer significant value to their communities. As we expand and are able to offer more, we will begin accepting donations.
For now, we are an educational organization that refers people to helpful resources. As we expand, we hope to file lawsuits, offer funding for more birth options, and more. For now, you can support our work by following us on Facebook, sharing us as a resource with your friends and family, and helping us educate birthing people about their right to a better birth.
What We Believe:
Only a culture that systematically devalues and ignores women would allow women to continue to die of preventable pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.
There are many ways to have a healthy, safe birth. Birthing people should get to choose among a range of options.
The epidemic of postpartum mood disorders is closely linked to the lack of support birthing people receive in the immediate postpartum period.
A dysfunctional medical culture harms doctors and other providers, too. Suicide rates among doctors are extraordinarily high. Doctors can suffer from birth trauma, too. Doctors are not the enemy.
The values and traditions of birthing people matter. Giving birth in a context that feels safe and respectful can improve self-esteem, reduce the risk of postpartum mood issues, connect a person to their religion or culture, and bring families closer together.
Accountability matters. Our healthcare system fails to hold hospitals accountable for abusive practices.
Birthing people are autonomous, intelligent human beings who have the right to make decisions about their care.
Doctors, midwives, and other providers are obligated to provide birthing people with up-to-date, evidence-based medical advice based on science—not tradition or convenience.
It is unacceptable for doctors and hospitals to ignore women’s needs and desires for their births.
When doctors ignore the wishes of birthing people, it erodes trust in medicine. This may cause birthing people to rely on unreliable sources of information, such as message boards.
Good providers are not threatened by thoughtful, inquisitive patients who know their rights.
Hospitals capitalize on ignorance and fear to coerce birthing people into expensive procedures that they might not otherwise choose.
A healthy society requires healthy families. Abusive birthing practices undermine the health of families.
What We Do
The Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition believes in a holistic approach to childbirth advocacy. A multi-pronged approach always works best. We educated consumers about their rights, and support them to ensure that those rights are protected. This includes:
Partnering with legal experts to write letters and, when necessary, file lawsuits.
Working with individual birthing people to correct misconceptions and misinformation to ensure they go into birth fully performed and prepared.
Planning high-profile protests to draw attention to human rights violations and exert pressure on hospitals and providers.
Supporting patients to file complaints against unethical or unskilled providers and hospitals.
Equipping patients with the skills and tools they need to document abuse.