Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Our natural law rights in childbirth

Australia's independent midwives and mothers are now working against time in a concerted effort to protect normal birth, including homebirth and the mother's right to employ a midwife privately.
(please see previous posts on the draft health practitioner legislation if you want more information)

I have received hundreds of emails and phone calls, some from people who have experience in maternity activism, and others from bewildered people who wonder what they can do to help. One email, which was forwarded from someone I have never met, held the key that helped me develop a new line of defence. The email contained personal advice from a lawyer, who pointed out that the Austrlian constitution has clauses that can be used in defence of women's rights to homebirth as a "natural law right".

The legislation denies a woman’s natural law right to give birth under natural physiological conditions, in the place of her choosing.

The only requirement for physiological birth is that the woman is able to proceed without medical or surgical assistance. Since pregnancy and birth are truly natural states, and are not, per se, reliant on outside management, it is reasonable to protect the woman’s natural law right to maintain personal control over such decisions, including if and when she goes to hospital.

I believe that having a baby at home instead of a hospital is a natural law right , given by GOD rather than by government, and covered under the freedom of religious belief provisions of the Australian constitution. Many religious codes have ancient guidance that can be applied to the birth of a baby. The Christian Scriptures, which are my personal supreme guide to faith and action, teach that children are a blessing from God, to be valued and protected, and give many examples of people who protected and supported the mother and child, even in defiance of government (eg Exodus 1:17). Section 116 of the constitution says that the parliament shall make no laws to restrict your religious belief, practice, and observance.

By denying midwives insurance, and denying midwives the right to practise privately in any geographic location, the government would deny a woman's right in physiological childbirth.

I think we need to stress the difference between physiological and medically managed childbirth. No person can predict a particular outcome in maternity care: the care of the midwife is a partnership with the woman, that develops as time passes and decisions are made. The best/safest/uniquely normal default position, which I call 'Plan A', is to proceed naturally without outside stimulation or pain management, as long as there is no valid reason to interrupt, interfere, intervene, or disturb that physiologically natural process. Even so-called natural therapies, and emotional 'support' can also disturb the natural process. The woman's and baby's body's subtle orchestration of hormones and physical activity cannot be replicated in managed birth. Medically managed birth - whether induction of labour, or pain relief with drugs, or anything else that the birthing woman can't do for herself, should be considered iff (if and only if) the natural process is more likely to harm mother and or child than the medical intervention.

My message today to all who read this blog is that we are fighting for something that is truly worth fighting for! But you probably wouldn't be reading this if you didn't already know that.

Be strong and courageous.
Joy Johnston


Stitch Sista said...

So what next Joy?

I was hopeful that there would be something illegal about the legislation. How does that get presented and fought out?

Joy Johnston said...

The draft legislation will be changed only if people can convince the legislators that it's not right the way it's written. That's what I'm trying to do, and many others are too.
I don't claim to be an expert in things political, and if I have it wrong someone please let me know, but as I understand it, the Bill has had its first reading in Parliament, will be read a second time after changes have been made, then the third time it goes to the vote. Once it's through the Lower House it goes to the Senate. The best time to get it fixed is now.