Greece: Giving Birth is Not a Privilege of the Rich!

Written by Veroniki Krikoni in Global Voices (translated from the Greek)

Feelings of revulsion and anger were caused by news published in Eleftherotypia (Freedom of Press) newspaper on December 5, 2011, which revealed some public hospitals in Greece have refused treatment to women in labour, because they did not have the money to pay hospital fees of 950 euro.

The incidents took place in November 2011, at public hospitals in Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhodes and Rethymnon. In these cases the cost of integrated unified hospital treatment according to Ministry of Health price list, came in at 950 (almost $1,300) euro for natural childbirth and 1,500 euro ($2,009) for birth by Caesarean section. Pregnant women pay the money in advance and afterwards the costs are offset with the labour allowance.

After several days delay, the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity intervened with a circular, stating that [el] no advance payment of this amount will be required in future, leaving however the issue of price difference between the official price list and the provided labour allowance still open to question.

Two women’s rights organizations, the Women’s Initiative Against Debt and Austerity Measures and the Independent Women’s Movement, have started to raise awareness of these incidents:

Giving birth is not a privilege of the rich! We demand free childbirth, we demand that the bailout funds go directly to health sector.

The news was shared and commented on throughout various social media channels by Greek netizens.

People of Greece react (we have edited out the Greek language versions)

Dimitris Oikonomou expresses his shame about the event [el]:

@d_oikon: WHAT A SHAMEEEEE! What the heck, how did we end up here? [Women in labour were cast off by hospitals because they had no money.]

While Gangelakis adds, in the spirit of the seasonal celebrations [el]:

@Gangelakis: Jesus Christ himself was born in a cave: Public hospitals refused treatment to women in labour, because they had no money to pay

Nemi  commented [el] via her Facebook status update:

Reading news today one at a time each feels like a slap in the face

Lector stresses the very essence of this incident [el] in a discussion forum:

They didn’t look at the identity card, they looked at the wallet.

Comparisons to the US

In the same forum, simonbolivar makes a comparison [el] with the American health care system:



They turned us into America, where you are finished if you don’t have any good insurance!

While, in the same vein, user Isis adds irony to the mix in a different forum [el]:

I am touched, we are becoming America.
Giving birth for free in public hospitals? Impossible. Wipe out childbirth allowance NOW as well.

In a news portal where the news was shared, user Harry expresses his anger in a comment under the original post about the hospital expenses [el] and the dealing with maternity:

Among all the attacks I have faced by the state (heavy taxation, electricity, additional taxes), I have to say I am most furious about the treatment my pregnant wife faces. My insurance no longer covers anything (Fund for Independent Professionals and Craftsmen) and the hospital is very expensive and its service is outrageous. Every country supports maternity except for Greece. If this situation continues, I will take my whole family and we will go abroad as immigrants.

Twitter user Jordi criticizes the ones responsible [el]:
@jorjito73: Women in labour were cast off by hospitals, because they had no money…Loverdos’ [Minister of Health] fault? Of course not, blame the cruel administration.
The discussion then moved to completely different subject about the future of the country and its future citizens [el]:

@katerinas_diary@jorjito73 They interfere to the future of the race; that isIf unemployed women who want to give birth are not admitted in public hospitals!!!

@jorjito73@katerinas_diary It’s the beginning of forming the electorate during the following years, once and for all!  Shame and abjection.

Births in Greece appear to have decreased by 15% during the last year [el], as the harsh economic situation is forcing many couples to delay having their first or second child.


Photo by thesoupboy via flickr


Christopher M.
Christopher M.6 years ago

Children are especially expensive to educate. My first semester at Shepherd College (Shepherd University) in state cost $1,902.80 (room board tuition fees). I remember the figure. Out of state students are paying five figures a semester for all costs, my best friend says, who lives near campus.

My parents didn't have enough money to educate the two of us when push came to shove. Mom insisted I go live on campus because I needed the life experience (Asperger). Dad was overruled, who wanted commuting (and would have been the chauffeur as he insisted I not drive, yet, because I would wreck and raise his rates). Looooong story short: my brother never went to college more than a semester and paid for it himself. But his revenge was sweet: his computer career easily put my Master's-educated career to shame, until the state of Maryland sent me to vocational rehabilitation, in computer programming, and I followed his lead.

I am now in my 13th year of Web work.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.6 years ago

Would women even consent to get married if men said they would get their tubes tied first? I had a bad experience from a Catholic I dated. "90% of women want them!" she said sharply. She would not let me have a vasectomy at any point in our would-be marriage. My fiancee for her part believes marrieds have a duty to procreate. Neanderthal. I side with my best friend who took the necessary, personal, steps never to have children. Kids are a choice for couples. Optional.

Besides the numbers support me. 43% of Gen X women and 32% of Gen X men don't have any kids.

Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey6 years ago

It is most certainly NOT a right to give birth! It is a (now dubious) privilege, and with the global human population currently at 7 BILLION, and rising, it is extremely IRRESPONSIBLE to demand the right to free childbirth. If you cannot afford a baby DO NOT HAVE ONE! The human race is in NO danger of becoming extinct - unlike large numbers of other species! - and it is better not to keep bringing ever more babies into an already dangerously overcrowded world.

Children are very expensive to feed, to clothe, to educate and so on. These women obviously cannot in actual fact afford any children and therefore they should not have any. The child will suffer if the parents are poor. Stop being so bloody selfish! (I am myself childfree by choice.)

Brian M.
Past Member 6 years ago

While this article is mainly addressing economic inequality, the issue of population control transcends economics. Population control is an issue of critical importance to the environment. Yes, capitalism is an oppressive economic system that is based upon oppressing workers, whether there are many or few. Population control won't make a difference with the economic system. But, the economic system won't save any of us from environmental disaster. There are too many people consuming too many resources on this planet: to hell with economics, who is interested in surviving at all? We have just passed another environmental tipping point: reports are coming from the arctic that document huge methane releases into the atmosphere. In our lifetimes, we will see large portions of the earth become uninhabitable. We will see disease pandemic and starvation, even in the wealthy nations. We will also see horrific wars fought over dwindling resources. We must stop creating consumers of energy and other resources i.e. we must manage our population much better than we are. Or don't. Nature is about to manage our population for us. Hopefully, at least a small percentage of humans will survive to rebuild.

By the way, Lori D. it is quite naive, if not selfish, to pretend that the poor aren't the first to suffer the consequences of both the free market capitalist system and the decline in the environment. They already are in many parts of the world. There is nothing more bourgeois than to su

Janet O.
Janet O6 years ago

Those prices are a bargain compared to the U.S. healthcare industry cartel! Not fair, but I would gladly pay those prices!

Valerie Hammett
Valerie Hammett6 years ago

why do economically challenged people still want to have kids? seriosuly dont they realize how crucial it is to plan for a secure future? goodness me...

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Nina Anghel
Nina Anghel6 years ago


Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago


Brian M.
Past Member 6 years ago

Childbirth isn't a privilege at all: it's adding more people to an overcrowded world that is already running out of resources. Childbirth is a death sentence to the baby born to live in a world in the grips of a mass extinction event that will see the brutal death of most of the human population. Most children are being born in nations with the least resources to survive the environmental catastrophe that has already begun on this planet. The poor of all nations will be the first to die. Childbirth is something that should be avoided at all costs; but most especially by those who have the least to raise those children.