The Maternity Services Review report, released last weekend, was an attempt to delivery continuity of care and midwife-led services to more Australian women. In so doing, it has stripped that very same care and service from the only women who currently have it – homebirth mums.
The fact that it did this in the face of having received the majority of its submissions from homebirth parents is galling and speaks volumes for the way “public consultation” occurs in this country. But the fact that the report’s recommendations, if accepted by the Government and made law, would criminalise the high quality care currently delivered to women who choose to give birth at home by registered, professional, independent midwives to their clients is radical and dangerous.
Good intentions have paved the way. The MSR was established partly in response to rising birth intervention rates and widespread concern that women were being poorly served by a maternity care system that was fragmented, expensive and increasingly medicalised.
But the process became hijacked by professional lobbying, deal-making and perhaps a strange reflex of governments to favour institutionalised power over the rights of individual constituents.
The report is fairly forthcoming about this:
“In recognising that, at the current time in Australia, homebirthing is a sensitive and controversial issue, the Review Team has formed the view that the relationship between maternity health care professionals is not such as to support homebirth as a mainstream Commonwealth-funded option (at least in the short term). The Review also considers that moving prematurely to a mainstream private model of care incorporating homebirthing risks polarising the professions…”
So as long as the AMA and RANZCOG are hostile to homebirth -ideologically, not evidentially – the government is not prepared to stare them down. [...]
The Review concluded that, “while homebirth is the preferred choice for some women, they represent a very small proportion of the total.” Since when has being in the minority constituted an acceptable reason for discrimination? The fact that only a small proportion of the population will need heart transplants is no reason to ban them or block public funding to them. The small minority of families who choose private education due to religious beliefs are still supported by Commonwealth funding. And of course homebirth will be unpopular when it is the only way to give birth in Australia that receives no public funding whatsoever.
Read the rest, which goes on to discuss the 2010 registration issues that may make homebirth midwifery outright illegal.
[hat tip: the Morrigan]