The Maternity Services Advisory Group is a new advisory committee of the federal health department, in preparation for implementation of the government's current group of maternity reforms.
These reforms include professional indemnity insurance, Medicare and prescribing rights for midwives, as well as the outlawing of private midwifery practice as we, and the rest of the developed world, know it. That is, women employing a midwife as their primary care provider for their complete maternity care, including birth in the place the woman chooses.
The advisory committee of approximately 25 is topheavy (to put it mildly) with medical stakeholders in maternity care.
The list includes two highly respected midwife academics, Sally Tracy and Pat Brody. Barb Vernon, who is executive officer (with a background in politics, not a midwife) of the Australian College of Midwives (ACM), will also sit on the committee. There are three consumer places, two of which are taken by leading Queensland Maternity Coalition activists, Joanne Smethurst and Bruce Teakle. I see NO name on the list of any person who might have substantial recent midwifery practice on their CV. (please correct me if I am missing something here!)
An outsider looking at the list could conclude that midwives are not all that important in maternity services.
Yet the government's proposed reforms are all about midwifery practice.
The picture I get is a big table with some of the big obstetric names: Ted Weaver, Andrew Foote, Andrew Pesce, David Elwood (you can google them if you want to know more about them). There is one female doctor, Marilyn Clarke from Australian Indigenous Doctors Assn. Other medical names are Steve Sant, Steven Katz, Ross Wilson, Dennis Pashen, and a representative of the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand. The Nursing College and union are represented, along with several hospital associations.
I am going to stick my neck out here, and comment on the obvious MALENESS of this committee. Every reader can draw her (or his) own conclusions about what that means. Is this the battleground, at which the boundaries of 'women's business', or what is allowed in the quintessential female acts of bearing and nurturing a child, are decided?
A midwife is a guardian of physiologically normal birth, and an expert who works in harmony with the natural processes in pregnancy, birth, postnatal, and breastfeeding-nurture of the infant.
The focus of 'maternity' has shifted, from the primary care which protects, promotes, and supports wellness, with access to specialist levels of care when appropriate, to the highly medicalised world that treats pregnancy as a condition to be managed, treated, and eventually have the growth extracted. The midwife is the forgotten maternity professional, now on the verge of extinction.