Friday 20 November 2009

Homebirth; Australia Spits on Human Rights

I’ve spent most of the last week since we got home from camp dealing with a nasty cold – Littletree was feeling pretty sick and feverish on the day we came home from camp, and spent most of the next 3 days in bed with a yucky, wet cough. But we took good care of her, and she got better, only for me to catch the cold. I came down with a sore throat, and lost my voice completely, so I wasn’t really up to blogging.

Not to mention, I find the topic on my mind somewhat depressing. Most every other birth-blogger in Australia already said something about this, so I can probably leave it alone, but it is on my mind, even though I have a tendency to procrastinate on thinking about it.

Essentially, the federal government is proposing new laws that will essentially make independent homebirth midwives illegal, and put women’s birthing choices securely in the hands of the medical institution.

Bruse Teakle at The Maternity Coalition put out this press-release, which pretty much sums it up:

Doctors to gain veto powers over midwives and birth choices

Doctors to gain veto powers over midwives and birth choices

On 5 November the Government announced that the “Medicare for midwives” Bills would be amended to require midwives to have “collaborative arrangements” with “medical practitioners” before being eligible for professional indemnity insurance or Medicare rebates.

Doctors must approve each midwife’s entry to private practice:

- Midwives will be required by Commonwealth law to have “collaborative arrangements” with “one or more medical practitioners” before being eligible for Commonwealth-subsidised professional indemnity insurance (PII).

- PII will be a prerequisite for a midwife to enter private practice, under new national registration laws, being enacted state by state.

- Doctors will be able to unilaterally withdrawal from collaborative agreements with a midwife, rendering her uninsured, and legally unable to practice in a private professional capacity.

- This legally mandates medical control over midwives’ ability to register and work in private practice.

- This will be set in Commonwealth law, which can only be changed by Commonwealth Parliament.

- These provisions are contained in the Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009.

- Medical practitioners will control the registration status of midwives, despite their being a discrete, separately regulated profession.

- Medical professional organisations could set guidelines for collaborative arrangements, potentially forming defacto regulatory standards for midwifery endorsement and practice.

This gives doctors right of veto over women’s choices in birth care.

(this is an abbreviated quote, the full synopsis can be read HERE)

It basically means that no one can be a midwife; midwives have to have an agreement with a practicing doctor and all clients and births will have to be approved by the doctor and there’s pretty much no reason or incentive for doctors to ever approve anyone for a home birth, even if we thought we needed doctors’ approval. It means that women will not have the right to choose a homebirth without the approval, sanction and control of a doctor – which is hardly a choice at all.

This basically contravenes one of our most basic human rights. I’ve pointed out before that one of the Rights of Women as set out by the UN is that women have the right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on all matters relating to their sexual and reproductive health.

Which means that it is a human right for women to be able to make their own choices about how, where and with whom they birth. The Australian government is blatantly spitting in the face of the rights of women!

Oh, that’s right. Australia doesn’t have a bill of rights in its constitution. Which explains how the Australian Medical Association can get away with lobbying parliament to secretly make and pass laws that deny Australian women their human right to have control over their own bodies and their own birthing. Not to mention holding refugee children in detention centres for months on end, or the shocking treatment of Australia’s native peoples. And don’t lets forget that the whole of Australia’s federation was essentially based on wanting to push the White Australia policy, which is the crux of our nation’s love for abusing human rights.

Heck, Australia isn’t even a true democracy; it’s one of only a handful of nations where voting is compulsory. How is it democratic if you can’t even choose not to vote? Easy – you don’t have to actually cast a vote, you just have to show up on polling day and register that you voted. A clever way of controlling and keeping tabs on the population, indeed.

So complaining about the the crime of refusing rights and controlling birthing women is petty when you think about it.

Do I sound angry? Funny about that.


  1. It sucks so much and makes me sooooo angry even thinking about it. :(

  2. I'm not a lawyer, of course, but I think the obvious argument against a woman's right to have her birth any way she wants is the fact that she's not the only one affected. The courts/lawmakers will have to consider the rights of the child to be born in a safe environment if they see any evidence that it is not the case.

    ARE they claiming that? Do they have any scientific evidence that can be disputed by professionals? Is there any public discussion of this in the media?

    Here in Israel I've been involved in a very annoying fight against a forced government biometric database. Nevermind the technical problems and technological dangerous mess this law is liable to cause, the bottom line is the same - lawmakers attacking civil and human rights.

    I think it may actually be a good thing it's a Federal bill and not an internal decision of nameless people at the Ministry of Health. this way a campaign can be launched to question the motivation of the laws. I assume, that like Israeli laws, Australian ones must also include a paragraph describing the law's goal or purpose, and then follow with the chapters that deal with the details, conditions, etc.

    The way these can be attacked are many: either the purpose of the law is plainly anti-democratic or contradicting existing laws and civil rights (that's easy to attack), or the actual detailed conditions and restrictions listed within are quite unrelated. The latter is a little harder to fight against, sadly.

    Our own little campaign forced a few people to just dump everything for a few weeks of marathonic debates at the bill's committee at the capital, followed by a few months where again jobs had to be sometimes set aside for days of lobbying, organizing internet provocations, pushing the media to publish items, organizing demonstrations with supportive members of the parliament, etc. A very annoying and hard work, and here we have Jerusalem at an hour's drive away for most people...

    So at least you have your local government to bug about this, maybe write opinion columns to national papers, bug your house representative, and try to cooperate with human rights movements so you don't waste efforts...

    Well, keep me updated if anything moves, I'll want to write about it in my blog here in Israel.

  3. wow, thanks Ira, I'll keep you posted :)

  4. Well, I never found out what became of this :)

  5. what became of it is the laws were passed and midwifery went further underground, and women have fewer choices in birthing. A very sad thing indeed.


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