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Women tell Julia Gillard “My Body, My Birth, My Right”

By emd - 19 August 2010 135

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We turned out in our thousands in the rain last September at the Parliament House protest. We broke the record for submissions to the National Maternity Services Review in October 2008. We embarassed Julia Gillard in north Queensland on Tuesday, asking her what she’s going to do about women being unable to legally access a registered private midwife because of the Government’s new collaboration requirements. And today was Canberra’s turn, with a protest in the wind and rain outside the National Press Club while Julia Gillard was inside with the heater on.

Approximately twenty five women, and a dozen or more babies and small children, made sure their banners were in full view of the arriving media: “We Support Midwives – We Are Not Going Away”, “Medicare for Women and Miwives – With No Medical Veto!”, and “Let’s Move Forward – With PRACTICAL Birth Choices”. Sandwiched between a protest about the home insulation fiasco, and a youth Climate Change action group, the women took up a chant of “My Body, My Birth, My Right” as the cars arrived.

What are these women complaining about? The Government’s new Medicare for midwives legislation means that women can only access a registered homebirth midwife if a private obstetrician agrees to the birth plan. The AMA and MIGA (the medical indemnity insurer for both midwives and private obstetricians) are actively discouraging collaboration, and there is nothing to be gained by doctors if they choose to collaborate. So of course, it is virtually impossible to find a private obstetrician who will agree to a home birth plan with a registered midwife in attendance. This means that women who want to birth at home will have to do so without any registered health professional in attendance, or find a midwife who is willing to risk criminal charges by working without registration.

It all comes down to money. The AMA and MIGA do very well out of the funds received from private obstetricians, whose fees are heavily subsidised by the Medicare Safety Net scheme. Each private obstetric birth is estimated to cost the Australian taxpayer between $5,000 and $20,000, although the woman might pay only a small portion of that amount. A private midwifery home birth costs under $5,000, and until now has been paid 100% by the woman (no Medicare subsidy). Even with Medicare subsidy, a private midwifery birth will cost much less than an obstetric birth. And for women having a normal, healthy pregnancy and birth, it is a valid choice.

And therein lies the problem. By giving private doctors (not public hospitals, only private doctors are able to participate in the collaboration arrangements) the right to veto a private midwifery home birth plan, the Government has set a dangerous precedent for women’s rights in Australia. It is now legal for a doctor to decide what a woman can do with her own vagina, even if the woman disagrees. Where might this lead in future? Just think about that for a minute. Women who have been given full and accurate information about all their options will not be allowed to pay for a private service that their doctor does not offer.

So… how many protests will it take before Julia Gillard and Nicola Roxon realise that they are removing women’s rights?

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What’s Your opinion?


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135 Responses to
Women tell Julia Gillard “My Body, My Birth, My Right”
1
colourful sydney rac 3:09 pm
19 Aug 10
#

If you are worried about women’s rights, can I suggest your first point of call should be events featuring Tony Abbott?

2
georgesgenitals 3:33 pm
19 Aug 10
#

I’d be more interested if the argument was about the rights and wellbeing of the child involved.

3
Thumper 3:36 pm
19 Aug 10
#

If you are worried about women’s rights, can I suggest your first point of call should be events featuring Tony Abbott?

Last time I looked Gillard was in charge, not Abbott.

4
justin heywood 3:47 pm
19 Aug 10
#

…”By giving private doctors the right to veto a private midwifery home birth plan, the Government has set a dangerous precedent for women’s rights in Australia. It is now legal for a doctor to decide what a woman can do with her own vagina, even if the woman disagrees”

Who is most likely to know what is in the child’s interest? The doctor with years of training and experience, or the woman who has both limited experience and an emotional component to her decision.

If a doctor agrees that a home birth is likely to be safe, fine. But if the doctor doesn’t agree, there is likely to be good reason. I think the best interest of the baby should take precedence over the personal preferences of the mother.

5
colourful sydney rac 3:56 pm
19 Aug 10
#

Thumper said :

If you are worried about women’s rights, can I suggest your first point of call should be events featuring Tony Abbott?

Last time I looked Gillard was in charge, not Abbott.

*sigh* If you are concerned about women’s reproductive rights, the prospect of an Abbott led Governemnt should be a massive concern.

6
astrojax 4:14 pm
19 Aug 10
#

justin heywood said :

…”By giving private doctors the right to veto a private midwifery home birth plan, the Government has set a dangerous precedent for women’s rights in Australia. It is now legal for a doctor to decide what a woman can do with her own vagina, even if the woman disagrees”

Who is most likely to know what is in the child’s interest? The doctor with years of training and experience, or the woman who has both limited experience and an emotional component to her decision.

If a doctor agrees that a home birth is likely to be safe, fine. But if the doctor doesn’t agree, there is likely to be good reason. I think the best interest of the baby should take precedence over the personal preferences of the mother.

this and georgesgenitals’ comments ignore the element in here that a qualified midwife is implicatdd in these decisions, someone who will be able to ensure appropriate medical intervention is administered whould it be required; so it isn’t simply a matter of a woman demanding to stay at home and impinge upon the right of the child. in fact, the outcome regarding the well-being of the child is usually very prominent in the decision making process of these parents-to-be, but that something that is easy to ignore and dismiss…

7
Bosworth 4:50 pm
19 Aug 10
#

“What are these women complaining about? The Government’s new Medicare for midwives legislation means that women can only access a registered homebirth midwife if a private obstetrician agrees to the birth plan.”

This looks like a pretty good policy. EMD (or someone else), can you please explain what your issue is with this policy?

8
Pork Hunt 5:22 pm
19 Aug 10
#

Oh goody, I look forward to this one…
In any case, women have been giving birth since the year dot give or take nine months so they probably deserve to have a say on these matters. I’m sure the world would be a happier place if blokes (inc doctors) went fishing or golfing more often and left women alone to do the things they like doing…

9
Tetranitrate 6:55 pm
19 Aug 10
#

Pork Hunt said :

Oh goody, I look forward to this one…
In any case, women have been giving birth since the year dot give or take nine months so they probably deserve to have a say on these matters. I’m sure the world would be a happier place if blokes (inc doctors) went fishing or golfing more often and left women alone to do the things they like doing…

Oh great, so I guess it’s all well and good if go back to the infant mortality rates and the rates of deaths during childbirth we had back in the year dot.

10
Jethro 7:57 pm
19 Aug 10
#

Birthing centres seem to be a happy medium between a medical birth in a hospital and a (in my view) somewhat dangerous birth at home.

Perhaps more funding for these would be a good idea, particularly if homebirths are going to be very difficult to achieve under the government’s regulations?

I don’t know of any pregnant women (and with Ma Bodine about ready to pop I mix with more than a few) who actually want a home birth, but know of many (including Ma Bodine) who have wanted to get into the Birthing Centre attached to the Canberra Hospital but have been knocked back due to very limited places. Basically, you need to book in the day you find out you’re pregnant and you might be lucky to get in. These centres seem to have quite good outcomes and run largely on the same philosophy of childbirth that homebirth advocates would have, with the added insurance of having hospital facilities readily available if needed.

11
Woody Mann-Caruso 8:02 pm
19 Aug 10
#

In any case, women have been giving birth since the year dot give or take nine months so they probably deserve to have a say on these matters

Except, it seems, if you’re a female doctor, in which case MY body, MY birth, ME ME ME ME ME.

12
cleo 9:24 pm
19 Aug 10
#

That’s ok if you want a home birth or birth centre, BUT wouldn’t you want pain relief and the safety for your baby? Anyway at the moment Canberra’s maternity hospital is under staffed.

13
Richard Bender 9:25 pm
19 Aug 10
#

Unless we have entered a 1984-style totalitarian society, governments cannot stop you giving birth at home in the presence of anybody you choose. It is absolutely your right to choose to do so. Taxpayers, acting through governments, may even grant you the privilege of paying for your choice through Medicare. However, you have no right to this payment, which is what this group is asking for.

The unfortunate reality is that any medical scheme such as Medicare will of necessity ration services. If actuaries are telling those running Medicare or the state health systems that the risks (and consequent financial exposure) associated with home birthing exceed those of giving birth in a hospital, then the only sensible decision is for them not to pay for home birthing.

14
sepi 9:27 pm
19 Aug 10
#

the birthing centre definitely needs to expand. they turn away far more people than they let in.

One thing I don’t understand is that most hospital births are done with midwives only and no doctor, so why is homebirth so different?

When is the obstetrician supposed to certify that a homebirth can be attended by the midwife – and will there be a proper procedure for this (and a medicare number?). If not, then no obstetricians will approve any homebirths, and the govt have just abolished homebirth by stealth, which is a bit childish.

15
Pork Hunt 9:51 pm
19 Aug 10
#

Tetranitrate said :

Pork Hunt said :

Oh goody, I look forward to this one…
In any case, women have been giving birth since the year dot give or take nine months so they probably deserve to have a say on these matters. I’m sure the world would be a happier place if blokes (inc doctors) went fishing or golfing more often and left women alone to do the things they like doing…

Oh great, so I guess it’s all well and good if go back to the infant mortality rates and the rates of deaths during childbirth we had back in the year dot.

What has infant mortality rates got to do with my comment? I merely suggested that men leave women alone to do things women like doing?

My mum was born in a sauna in Finland in 1927 as were her 3 sisters and 3 brothers (not on the same day, obviously). Present would have been my grand ma and one or two older female relatives and a midwife.

No Doctor or “infant mortality rate”, just seven healthy kids.

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