"There are no grounds for doubting that the Lithuanian State’s policy of encouraging hospital births (…) was designed to protect the health and safety of mothers and children during and after delivery," the Strasbourg court ruled.
A panel of seven judges concluded that Lithuania could have but was not required to allowed pre-planned home births.
Four women who have birth at home turned to the Strasbourg court after hospitals in Lithuania refused to provide them with medical assistance during their home births and they were told to choose hospitals for their births.
Early this year, the Lithuanian authorities introduced legal changes to make it possible to give birth at home but there are no accredited institutions to provide such services so far.
The ECHR paid attention to such amendments in its ruling and underlined that Lithuania regularly reviews its relevant legislation " so as to ensure that they reflect medical and scientific developments, while fully respecting women’s rights in the field of reproductive health – notably by ensuring adequate conditions for both patients and medical staff in maternity hospitals across the country."
A judge from Estonia issued her separate opinion on the issue, stating that home birth restrictions violated women's freedom of choice.