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Lauredhel is an Australian woman and mother with a disability. She blogs about disability and accessibility, social and reproductive justice, gender, freedom from violence, the uses and misuses of language, medical science, otters, gardening, and cooking.

This author has written 1616 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Lauredhel »

24 responses to “The rise of fetal personhood notions in WA politics”

  1. Sunset

    I am very afraid and very angry. I hate that the AMA has such power to command media and government.

  2. Mindy

    “wild extremes” of homebirths

    I think he meant ‘where obstetricians don’t get paid’. FFS

    But let me guess, unborn children killed as the result of intimate partner violence, car accidents, or some other means not directly done by the mother will still be tragic accidents?

  3. Jess

    What happens if a pregnant woman goes into sudden labour and doesn’t make it to a hospital? Does she have to prove that she wasn’t planning a home/car/ladies toilets birth?

  4. StuffedO

    I seem to remember a similar issue being raised on the Canadian Dykes on Mykes podcast a couple (few?) years ago over the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. The problem with these sorts of laws is that they attempt to use the language of personhood, as you said, to prioritise the rights of the foetus over the rights of the woman. Very scary. :(
    Good post! Thanks!!

  5. Feminist Avatar

    Coming from the UK, I’m amazed at how much hostility there is to homebirths here. You do hear some in the UK from individuals, but the general position, especially from the state and doctors, is that it’s fine. And indeed, the major concern is about the lack of access to homebirths, and the failure of many health authorities to provide access to homebirths, due to a lack of midwives (and a lack of money). This is despite the fact that the govt has promised that every woman who wants a homebirth can have one. The hostility here seems even more bizarre in a country where some women don’t live near to maternity hospitals and would have to be transported by air to get to them (this happens in the UK, but is much rarer)!

    How on earth would ‘wild extremes’ be defined or enforceable anyway? I mean if they mean ‘against medical advice’, I would imagine that professional midwives aren’t going to agree to help high risk women give birth at home anyway (and how many high risk women would want to take the risk), so women who chose to do so would be doing so unsupported. And, in that case, plan for a hospital birth and just ‘run out of time to get to hospital’ when you go into labour.

  6. Megpie71

    Fun facts.

    1) Terminating a pregnancy in Western Australia is only legal if there have been less than 20 weeks since your last period, and you are over 16 years of age.
    2) There are less than half a dozen known clinics which supply pregnancy termination services in Western Australia.
    3) All of these are in the Perth metropolitan area.
    4) The next nearest locations outside the Perth metro area are either in South Australia (where you’ll need to have two different doctors agreeing that your physical and/or mental health will be endangered if you continue with the pregnancy, or that there’s severe foetal abnormality) or in South Africa (where you’ll have to be less than 13 weeks pregnant; between 13 and 20 weeks you’ll need to be able to prove you’re at risk physically or mentally, that the child was conceived via rape or incest, that the child is severely mentally or physically damaged, or that your financial and economic situation makes it impossible for you to remain pregnant).

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m so glad the Liberal Party of Western Australia has decided I’m less of a person than a potential inhabitant of my uterus. I mean, just look at all the options we have…

  7. Jason

    But they won’t come for me. You know why? I’m white. I’m middle-class.

    I’m writing about these laws, and one of the points I would like to make is about their selective (and punitive) application. It’d be stronger with a reference, so does anyone know of a study or survey on this? I’ve been looking, but most of what I’ve found hasn’t really analysed the applications of such laws along, say, class or race lines. (Failing that, I think that the general difference in court success along the same lines would be compelling enough.)

  8. Helen

    I see absolutely no reason why the loss of a wanted pregnancy couldn’t be considered amongst the gravest category of grievous bodily harm, rather than homicide – and no need to invoke fetal personhood

    THIS.

  9. Sunset

    Feminist Avatar, Mindy is on the money (literally) when she says “the obstetricians don’t get paid”. One of the key distinctions between maternity care here and in the UK is the prevalence of private health insurance and the consequent norm of many women seeing private obstetricians in pregnancy, rather than a norm of midwifery care.

    Obstetricians (specialists in maternity complications) also have a fixed interest in broadening the definition of a ‘high risk’ pregnancy to include more and more mothers. Negotiating childbearing in a hospital setting with a “high-risk” stamp on your forehead is a traumatising, disempowering experience for many women and not obviously linked to better outcomes.

    Ultimately, mothers must have the right to balance their own set of risks and midwives must the right to support them to the best of their ability. “Wild extremes” to the AMA is any homebirth at all. They have publicly stated their intention to wipe out homebirth. They continue to lobby government and harass midwives. It’s nothing less than a witch hunt and a gross violation of women’s rights to bodily autonomy.

  10. paul walter

    More superstitious ideological rubbish imported from the Tea Party heartland of the US.
    They are doing hit and run in the state legislatures there. When these sorts of policies fail to win through in one state, as occurred in Virginia concerning intrusive ultrasounds recently, they’ll try another variation elsewhere else, ’till another component is in place and then loudly claim definitive victory, trying to induce momentum as to acceptance of the whole suite of repressive social policy laws they want in.
    That other western countries elsewhere eventually become targets also is a logical progression; it also would be useful against the argument that these laws are exclusive to the illiterate fundamentalist boondoggles of the far midwest and deep south.

  11. Janet

    I don’t look like one of Those Women either, as a white middle class woman living in safe suburbia but I’m in the firing line of this stuff in the most pointed manner. I have been warning pro choice feminists for some years now that the homebirth regulations are the back door to foetal personhood in Australia because the right realises Australians, in the main, accepting of the current state of abortion despite how problematic and flawed our access may be. Our movements around birth and abortion need to galvanise in concert now because it all hinges on the same principle: the right of women to own their own bodies regardless of fertility status, at all times, in all ways.

  12. orlando

    Last year’s Pamela Denoon lecture (I just discovered) was given by Dr Leslie Cannold about the “unfinished business” of Australian abortion law, and seems very relevant here. Should we be campaigning for a federal solution?

  13. Mindy

    That is disheartening Lauredhel, I was thinking along the same lines as paul that it was imported culture not homegrown. Somehow the fact that it has always been here makes it worse.

  14. Mindy

    I’m starting to feel more and more like I’m living in a Margaret Atwood novel.

  15. Nik

    Concerns over the AMA’s “engouraged by people whi should know better” pointing the finger at Midwives & they would love they ability to prosecute midwives who support a woman’s decision to choose her place of birth!

    Why bother having command over our own bodies shall we just starting lining up for caesarean’s for every birth? Shall we just an a lobotomy aswell to increase compliance?

    Where are the freedom/rights for women to have a say over their bodies and decide what is best for their children going?

  16. Mindy

    Nik last year I read about a research paper written by an Obs discussing whether caesarians were safer for women than natural births and whether Drs should be routinely doing them. Scary stuff.

  17. paul walter

    No arguments Lauredhel, particularly after Morrison’s effort on asylum seekers, which you are aware of.
    I thought to mention something along the lines of your comment about WA, does seem increasingly “Texas” over there.

  18. What We Missed

    [...] Personhood politics: America’s worst export. [...]

  19. Napalmnacey

    Just when I thought I couldn’t despise the WA Liberal Party more. *seeth*

  20. Feminist Avatar

    This is perhaps where some lessons could be learned from The National Childbirth Trust in the 70s in the UK, who campaigned for greater freedom of choice and pushed for ‘natural’ childbirth, by which they meant less medical intervention (not vaginal versus caesarean which it has come to mean today). Today, they are often viewed as the breastfeeding ‘nazis’, but they were absolutely central to ensuring that medical intervention in childbirth is least a topic of debate in the UK, which along with less intervention= less cost for the NHS, has meant that this is a much more nuanced debate.

  21. The Forty-Sixth Down Under Feminists Carnival « Zero at the Bone

    [...] A Pregnant Pause: the reality for pregnant women and discrimination. Lauredhel clues us in on The rise of fetal personhood notions in WA politics. ‘Western Australians with uteruses, and our allies, should be afraid – and [...]

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