HUMAN RIGHTS – BIRTH

Women’s Rights in Childbirth as a Global Movement

Toni Harman, Co-founder of One World Birth

9th November 2016

On the poster of our FREEDOM FOR BIRTH film is a quote from Anna Ternovszky. Anna is the Hungarian mother who took her country to the European Court of Human Rights and won a landmark victory for women’s rights in childbirth.

“If we work together, I believe the world can change”.

So has the world changed?

Freedom For Birth documentary.

Image by Alto

Well certainly, over the past few months, there’s been an upsurge in media articles about the issue of human rights in childbirth.

Here’s a few stories that have appeared on my facebook timeline recently – stories from the US, Canada, Russia, UK, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary (the ongoing cases against Ágnes Geréb– who was featured in our FREEDOM FOR BIRTH film).

US: The Kimberly “forced episiotomy” court case in the US. Here’s a news story about the doctor surrendering his medical license.

US: A news story about the mother who won $16 million compensation after being left with debilitating injuries from her treatment during her birth.

CANADA: There’s a CBC news feature about mistreatment of women in maternity system.

RUSSIA: Strong article about rights of birthing women in Russia.

UK: Women’s lack of choice in childbirth in NHS highlighted in this Telegraph article.

IRELAND: News article about the Irish court ruling against forced C-section

LITHUANIA: The petition for asking Lithuanian Government to legalize women’s choice to give birth at home and drop criminal charges against midwives and doctors who supported home birth families in the past.

HUNGARY: The ongoing court cases against the homebirth midwife Agnes Gereb (the subject of our FREEDOM FOR BIRTH film (here’s my blogpost about it):

 

 

This increase in media attention doesn’t mean there’s been a huge increase in the abuse of women in childbirth. Instead it shows the “movement” is fast gathering momentum.

More parents, birth professionals, journalists and lawyers are becoming more aware of their rights in childbirth. And more organisations are becoming more active in this area. Here’s just a few of the things happening.

Human Rights in Childbirth conferences in LA, Strasbourg and next year in India. http://www.humanrightsinchildbirth.org/

Organisations like Human Rights in Childbirth, Improving Birth, US Birth Rights Bar Association, International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) have joined forces to submit an amicus curiae brief in the New York case of Rinat Dray vs. Staten Island University Hospital et al for a forced cesarean section that she received in 2011.

Improving Birth has joined forces with The Coalition of Improving Maternity Services and BirthNetwork National Merger Forces – making stronger, more powerful organisation – with events, rallies and campaigns

Real-life events, training programs, reports, campaigns and legal action are being provided by the UK charity Birthrights to protect human rights in childbirth.

The Roses Revolution against obstetric violence – events happening worldwide on 25th November

The Positive Birth Movement set human rights in childbirth as their topic last month for their “meets around the world”.

And in Italy, a law proposal, “Rules for the Protection of the Rights of Women and Newborns in Childbirth and Regulation for the Promotion of Physiological Birth” (Introduction) was submitted to Italian Parliament on March 11th 2016. The law creates a legal frame for identifying abuse against women in childbirth and a means to protect women’s human rights.

With all the above events happening, it feels like the tide is turning. The world is indeed changing.

Human Rights in Childbirth is now increasingly being recognised as an important issue by midwifery, obstetric, maternity and legal organisations.

But there’s still a long long way to go until every woman has full informed choice in childbirth, and that her choices are fully respected by every health professional.

If you are someone, like me, who cares passionately about birth, then you will want to play a part in making change happen. But change only happens if it is made to happen.

We need to seize this moment. We need to shift gears to take this movement to the next level.

I don’t know exactly what we all should do right now to seize the moment. The least we can do is connect, discuss, make plans, then take action.

I am going to think about what I can do right now to make change happen. Will you do the same?

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