Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Homebirth: a Woman’s Right to Choose

In Australia, the government is considering passing a law that would essentially make homebirth illegal. The law is thinly veiled as an insurance loophole – they’re saying that independent midwives will not be able to get indemnity insurance.

It seems that under the new law, anyone caught practicing midwifery, as well as the birthing woman, would face fines up to $30,000.

I could go on and on about how homebirth has been proven to be as safe as or safer than hospital birth again and again. About how it’s a human rights issue – women have the right to give birth at home.

The United Nations Statement on the Rights of Women (1995) that states "Women have the right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on all matters relating to their sexual and reproductive health"

Imagine a world where homebirth is illegal, as the Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon is trying to make it.

Most women will be forced into hospital births whether they want one or not. Renegade independent midwives will still practice, underground. So in order to hire one, a pregnant woman would have to be connected to the homebirth community to find her.

The underground midwife would be attending births in her area. Everything is fine but she has to transfer now and then, and let's be realistic, even the best midwife with the best stats still needs to transfer occasionally.

So she would either need to say "oops, we were planning to come in and the labour was really fast and now there's a problem, I'm just a friend who happened to be there and I'm helping them get to the hospital." At some point the hospital will get to know her as a woman who "happens" to witness a few too many births and they investigate... OR the midwife would need to "abandon" transferring mothers at the hospital door.

Not only that; even if the birth goes without a problem, there you are, after your yummy homebirth, basking in the warm glow of new baby bliss… But then you need to register the birth. If you're going on the story of "we didn't make it in time" you'll still need to get up out of bed pretty soon after the birth and go in to the hospital to register.

Basically, it would really suck, and be an affront to women’s rights.

Looking at the two main models of maternity care - the US model, which has almost no homebirth, the highest rates of medical interventions and cost, and among the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the western world, and the European model, where in countries like Holland around two thirds of births are attended by a midwife, around half of which are at home, at a much lower cost and with a significantly lower rate of maternal and neonatal mortality, Why on earth would the Australian government choose to follow the US model? Why?

Well, I could say a lot. I could rant on for hours and hours, quoting this and that study, talking about safety, and rights, and choice, and freedom, and witch hunts. But I’m pretty sure you all know all that. I can highly recommend Lisa Barrett’s blog.

There will be a rally in Canberra on the 7th of September; I will be going. If you can’t make it there, you can show your support by purchasing a virtual rally ticket.

And just because I think it’s great, I’m posting my friend Currawong’s inspired song:


  1. I'm an American, who is also politically neutral, but I just wanted to say this is beautiful thanks for sharing!

  2. I was appalled by this article and thought you would be too:

  3. I'm from Quebec, Canada, and here it's already illegal to homebirth! That disgusts and angers me, and when the time eventually comes, I plan to have my children at home, despite the laws. I hope that law where you live doesn't get passed!


Thanks for your lovely words, witty banter and entertaining discussion :)