As the child of a strong willed, independent mother, I grew up believing that girls were as good as boys. I was also aware that many boys did not agree with me. In an effort to live as an equal in this male dominated world, as a child I suppressed any girlishness within me. I refused to wear dresses, I cut my hair short and acted as non girly like as I could.
However I was up against it. Despite being good at football the boys on the road did not allow me play most of the time. I could climb trees better than most but again was not allowed do that with the boys. I can still remember the fury I felt some days returning home, having been excluded from a game. ‘I am as good as those boys’ played on a loop inside my head.
As the years moved on I remained extremely sensitive to being discounted from something because I was a girl. I have three girls of my own and have tried over the years to teach them the lessons I learned from my own mother.
So why am I writing this post today? What has prompted my thinking on this?
Well i am writing because I am incensed, furious, and in a way incredulous about something that happened here in Ireland recently. I am also amazed by the fact that most Irish women are unaware of what has happened. So let me explain.
In the high court a judge has removed our right to birth our babies as we wish. He removed our rights to have an opinion. He told us we are not well informed. He told us that the health professionals can make the choice for us, regardless of whether we agree or not. They do not need to have our consent!
Let us put this in perspective. Can you imagine going in for an operation and not having to sign a consent form? The doctor knows best. Would you be happy with that, regardless of how knowledgeable the doctor was?
So why would a judge rule that it is okay during childbirth for a midwife to do what she thinks is right even if you have asked her not to?
This article by Mind the baby explains the situation very well.
I understand that many of you will not read have time to click the link, so as you are here, let me try to explain the situation as best I can.
Recently a case came to the courts in which an Irish woman sued Kerry General Hospital. She claimed that due to a midwife rupturing her membranes against her expressed wishes, she required an emergency caesarian section. As a result of the artificial rupture of membranes, a natural birth had been denied, a life endangering complication had resulted and an invasive operation had been required.
However the judge decided that the midwife was trained, and was entitled to do what she thought best, regardless of the woman’s wishes. In his own words, the judge said ‘
“The midwife was the person entitled, authorised and qualified to make the decision”
The key point here is that this judge agreed that the midwife did not require the consent of the woman, in order to rupture her membranes. This woman had no voice. Her body was no longer her own responsibility.
I am beyond words. Why are more women not concerned about this? Why are the newspapers not discussing it? This judge is saying lie back, the doctors and nurses will do what’s best for you. If you agree, wonderful, if you do not, tough, as we can do what we think is right regardless. No consent required.
I have no doubt that many who will read the headlines behind this story will believe it to be a group of hippy home birth, or natural birth freaks on a bandwagon, but it is anything but.
This is about the rights of women to be treated with dignity and respect. The rights of a woman to have an opinion, and the rights of ourselves and our daughters to write a birth plan and know it will be taken seriously.
This ruling tells me, that the world has not changed very much from the male dominated world of my childhood days.
Justice Sean Ryan also awarded costs against the family in this case. They are now liable for both their own legal costs and those of the HSE. AIMs has begun a fund to help this family meet the costs. If you want more details you will find it here. AIMS Ireland Womens Support Fund.