Government in my Uterus: no thank you

Step right up! History is in the making! Where we land though, nobody knows! Has the time come when Saskatchewan women finally give the government in their uterus the boot? Or will the current laws of the land–that dictate what women can and cannot do in childbirth–stand, sealing the fate of women’s choices from a state of bad to worse?

It’s all up to you folks!

The current provincial legislation under the midwifery act greatly restricts who can provide care for a woman during pregnancy, birth and postpartum*. Many of us here in Saskatchewan, and elsewhere in Canada, see this kind of regulation of women’s bodies for what it is: a violation.

Step closer so you can hear me! Birth rights are human rights! Alright, alright–going too far here, you say? Well, listen up–I’m telling you straight: this is how it is! Step right up and grab ’em–your rights that is–OR hand ’em over! It’s all up to you. What’s it gonna be?

Seriously though, since women are human (I know, shocker) we can put in the simplest terms:  Current legislation violates human rights.

Who says? What about our Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Canadian Constitution? Well, Mothers In Action has taken this on and have launched a fundraiser to support a Constitutional challenge against the provincial legislation. From Mothers in Action Go Fund Me page–Who Owns Your Womb:

“We, mothers in Saskatchewan, need your help to challenge this legislation in court. We are raising funds to retain experienced legal council to launch a formal constitutional challenge against the very legislation that is taking these rights away from you, your wives, sisters, mothers, daughters and female friends. The time for us to change this legislation is now! The Saskatchewan College of Midwives is pursuing its first case against an individual in regards to this legislation. This care giver allegedly provided care to a pregnant woman prenatally, during early labor and during her postpartum period. If the charge is successful it will affect the rights of every woman across Canada. We are launching the Constitutional Challenge because It blatantly violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It infringes upon a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of person”.

The test case has brought this all to a head. And though the test case is separate from the Constitutional challenge we can’t have the latter without the former. Regardless of what rumors are being spread about the circumstances of the charge brought forth by the College of Midwives, the focus must remain on the Constitutional challenge if we care about our rights and the rights of future generations!**

I see some of ya like the circus, eh? Gets everyone out and about, for sure. Lots of by standers milling about. Some of you may be thinking or may have even heard that the fundraiser is for the test case. It is not, no way–nope! Listen, I’ve got something to share with you: I’ve gotta say this quietly, so lean in: you may not notice this folks, but you are in a circus ring. It’s true! Look around! There’s a whole wide world out there! Don’t believe me, you say? Okay…. Your choice.

The real deal here is that larger wheels are turning outside of the circus ring. Our rights as birthing women are at stake.

There are those who will focus on gossip about the case and fail to see the larger picture–that this is about a woman’s right to choose who supports her in birth!

How this challenge plays has out has the potential to affect all Canadian women. Mothers are standing up for their rights and demanding that legislation reflect those rights. Those with clear vision are supporting this challenge!

Securing human rights has never come easy. There is banter and mud-slinging aplenty going on. I say to everyone reading this: do what you feel is right. I will do the same and I will support the fundraiser for this action because it’s the right thing to do. I’m doing it for the next generation. If I’m lucky enough to one day sit in a rocking chair with little ones at my feet I will be able to proudly say I was just one person who spoke up to protect their right to autonomy, their birth rights, their human rights.

Mothers in Action have done an excellent job of laying out the details. Please visit the Go Fund Me page to learn more and keep up to date.

Food for thought as you think about the possibility of a world outside the circus ring (maybe some of you will even choose to take a step and have a gander?):

When has regulating women’s bodies ever improved health or outcomes?

16882198_1482867411.8644.jpg*Saskatchewan Midwifery Act states that only licensed professionals, such as Registered Midwives may: “provide care to a woman and her healthy baby during a normal pregnancy, labour and Post-partum period” (Section 23 of the Midwifery Act, found on Page 12). More links available on the Who Owns Your Womb? by Mothers in Action page.

**Edited from original.

January 7, 2017 Update: Mothers In Action has exceeded their first fundraising goal!  They are moving forward with the next phase of fundraising for the Charter challenge.  Your donations are still needed!  Use the links above and donate today.   

For more information, visit Mothers in Action Website.

No quick fix

The hurdles women face trying to navigate various maternity systems are sourced by complex and deeply rooted imbalances. I surely wish there were easy answers but the truth is there’s no quick fix to this one.

Recently, while listening to Wendell Berry speak in an interview with Bill Moyers about farming and sustainable living on our earth, one comment stood out to me that I thought applied nicely to childbirth advocacy and activism:

“We have to ask what’s the right thing to do and go ahead and do it.  And take no thought for the morrow.” –Wendell Berry

This brings me back to the ground. Perhaps it’s not up to us to say when any of these changes will be seen (or even if it will be in our lifetime) but that fact shouldn’t stop us from trying–because it’s the right thing to do. In my years (a mere six) of contemplating birthing issues, I offer my own list of some key things that need changing (feel free to add yours in the comments):

  • Recognition of a woman’s right to birth as she chooses
  • Legislation needs to reflect those rights
  • An independent reporting system when violations of those rights occur
  • Accountability for violations of human rights in childbirth
  • And last but not least, education of our youth of birth as a normal, physiological process

To accomplish most of these maybe we need to vote differently (not just at the polls but with our feet!) and leave behind fear based decisions. We need to continue to raise awareness when our institutions disregard women’s rights. We need to question what it is we are teaching our children about the normal, physiological process that childbirth is. Raising our children so they feel empowered to ask questions and follow their own paths is vital to this kind of cultural change.

Of course there is hope. Women are taking back their births and there are legal shifts (such as the Ternovsky case in Hungary) which hold much promise. Perhaps with changes activated both from the bottom and the top–grassroots advocacy combined with acknowledgment of human rights–the potential exists to motivate change by meeting somewhere in the middle.

Out of all the doubts, wrong turns and false starts–at the bottom of the box there is always hope. The way I see it we each just need to go forward with the best we have at any given time.

The thing we all need to remember–the non-negotiable part–is that women own their births. As I see it, that and nothing else must be the base of our work.