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.

International Day of the Girl

“I am convinced that discrimination against women and girls is one of the world’s most serious, all-pervasive and largely ignored violations of basic human rights.” Mr. Jimmy Carter in the New York Times

Today is the International Day of the Girl Child which “recognize[s] girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.” This morning in my news feed I notice a couple of things that catch my attention: one is the speech by former president, Jimmy Carter, speaking to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The other is the Girl Effect: “Girl Declaration.” This post is my own exploration how birth fits into these interrelated movements.

First of all, I happen to agree with Mr. Carter’s perspective and I think his quote applies perfectly to childbirth violations; the violations both women and children suffer in childbirth are largely ignored and span every country, developed or not. Yet the Declaration does not seem to be heeded…developed or not. In a speech Mr. Carter made last June, he reminds us of the details of the Declaration of Human Rights:

“Every country is sworn to implement these principles of equality in their laws, in their customs and their treatment of men and women. They don’t do it!”

They. Don’t. Do. It. Now let’s look at the Declaration and see what it says about Motherhood and Childhood assistance:

“Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.”  (Article 25)

I’m not sure what special care means, but I don’t think it means silencing women, abusing them (or their babies), denying them access to care or to treat them with anything less than dignity. And as I tend to repeat myself I will say again: it doesn’t matter what country you come from–developed or not–you will hear stories of abuses in childbirth. This tells me that motherhood is undervalued. 

I’m left feeling heavy and hopeful at the same time. It’s all there just waiting to be recognized. But what can we do to bring about change? Almost as an answer, the next thing I see on my Facebook feed is the Girl Effect Declaration which is a “call to action for the post-2015 development agenda: it’s time to stop poverty before it starts.” The taglines are great:

Happy International Day of the Girl

I love reading the declaration (below) because it empowers girls in whatever they choose to do and why wouldn’t that include motherhood? Motherhood has value–it’s there for girls when they grow up and if they choose it. It may seem odd to some to bring attention to motherhood as a future option for girls when it’s currently forced on so many. That said, I think there is room to frame motherhood as a source of empowerment and there is also risk in separating ourselves and girls from the important right of passage that motherhood is.

As for Mr. Carter’s point regarding violations against women and girls being largely ignored, I will say this: let’s leave room for valuing birth and motherhood in our human rights work and ensure girls hear that motherhood can be a source of empowerment, that they have the right to safe motherhood when and if they should choose it as a woman.

The Girl Declaration