After experiencing what some might describe as a truly terrifying labor and delivery experience back in 2013, a California mom is taking action against the OB she claims abused her. Last week, Kimberly Turbin filed a lawsuit over an episiotomy performed by Dr. Alex Abbassi, who practices at Providence Tarzana Medical Center in California. In her account, Turbin alleges that Dr. Abbassi not only refused to listen when she repeatedly yelled out, "No, don't cut!" during the delivery; but he also proceeded to make 12 painful cuts in a row when carrying out the episiotomy, a surgical procedure used to widen the vagina. As of Monday, Bustle was unable to reach Dr. Abbassi for comment on the allegations.
If something about Turbin's birth story is starting to ring a bell right about now, that's probably because a video of it went viral on YouTube in August 2014. At the time, its circulation led to a ton of public outcry, due to its upsetting nature. However, since Dr. Abbassi didn't actually break any laws, that alone wasn't enough to bring any legal action against him.
According to Yahoo! Parenting, Turbin spent the next year and a half filing complaints with both her hospital and state medical board (which she says went ignored) and searching tirelessly for an attorney to represent her (of which she claims 80 turned her down). In the end, Turbin was able to raise more than $13,000 for legal fees on her own, through a crowd-funding campaign you can still contribute to. She also teamed up with the advocacy group Improving Birth, which connected her with Sacramento civil-rights attorney Mark Merin who was able to help her file an assault and battery charge.
In a statement about the suit, Turbin said last Thursday:
This is a big step for women who have been silenced. Every time I hear one of these stories about women being ignored when they complained about how they were treated in the hospital, it reminds me of why I’m doing this. It took a lot of people to get this far, but this is the proof that you can do something.
Just one day before, Dr. Abbassi was served with papers at his office in Tarzana, by a member of Improving Birth who filmed her reaction immediately after. In the 3:30 clip, which you can watch below, the unnamed advocate reported back on not only how awesome that moment felt for her personally, but also why it was such an important moment for women everywhere:
Women are coming to us and talking about coercion, manipulation, and abuse [in the delivery room] every single day. And some of it is just being accepted, because it's considered par for the course of giving birth in our current maternity care system. It doesn't have to be that way. We have the opportunity to stand up and say, "No!", that this is not okay.
Though it will be some time before Turbin's case goes to court, her story has definitely raised questions of just when exactly a doctor has the right to intercept a woman's birth plan. According to the official stance of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), the use of episiotomy during labor should be restricted, but doctors are still encouraged to use their medical judgment to determine whenever it's necessary. "The best available data do not support the liberal or routine use of episiotomy," the ACOG stated in a 2006 press release, which defines the procedure as a surgical incision made along the perineum between the vagina and the anus. "Nonetheless, there is a place for episiotomy for maternal or fetal indications such as avoiding severe maternal lacerations or facilitating or expediting difficult deliveries."