Dignity in Childbirth
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Making Progress Together

Earlier this month the Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited and timely judgment, finding that Northern Ireland’s abortion restrictions – banning termination even in cases of rape, incest and foetal abnormality –were in breach of Article 8 (the right to a private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Birthrights was proud to intervene in this case as part of a coalition of groups (including the Family Planning Association and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service). As organisations who trust women to make the best decisions they can with the right support, we cannot accept such unequal access to abortion in the UK. And while procedural issues (relating to whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has standing to bring the case) have frustratingly left the court unable to declare incompatibility officially, the Court has made it wonderfully clear that the law must change, calling for urgent “radical reconsideration” of the current framework and warning that if a victim of the existing law brought proceedings they would likely succeed. You can read more about why we continue to stand with the women of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to ensure their reproductive freedoms are guaranteed in my recent Guardian opinion piece

Meanwhile we were delighted to be welcomed as speakers at the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologist's Managing the Labour Ward Course, empowering the next generation of consultant obstetricians with human rights training. You'll also read more in this newsletter about some of our collaborative research projects as we endeavour to have an impact on those at greatest risk of disrespectful, unequal or discriminatory maternity care. And I'm proud that we continue to tackle difficult but important issues, such as access to maternal request caesarean sections, guided by the human rights principles of dignity, autonomy, choice and respectful care. 

I'd like to thank the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for their generous support of Birthrights work over the next three years, in addition to the continued support of the Baring Foundation.  Our small but dedicated team is only able to ensure that all women matter in pregnancy and childbirth with the ongoing support of all our funders, donors, volunteers, champions and friends. 

Rebecca Schiller, CEO
Maternal Request Caesarean Campaign

In the last few months we have written to every Trust in the UK and every CCG in the country to ask them about how they deal with maternal request caesareans. We are delighted with the response rate and look forward to sending you a Special Edition newsletter with a detailed focus on this issue very soon.

New Research: Disabled women need to be heard and respected as experts about their bodies

​We commissioned research with Bournemouth University that showed disabled women are generally not receiving the individualised care and support they need to make choices about their maternity care.

25% of women felt they were treated less favourably because of their disability, and 56% felt that health care providers did not have appropriate attitudes to disability. Some found birth rooms, postnatal wards, or their notes and scans “completely inaccessible”.

The research highlights the need to treat disabled women – as all women – as individuals with their own specific needs.  Disabled women are experts in their own conditions and what they mean for their bodies and choices in childbirth.  Women described distressing scenarios of having to prove that their choices were suitable, undermining their dignity. In one very concerning case, a woman described not being given all the information she needed to make an informed decision about her care during labour, and being denied the choices she would have made as a result. Respecting women’s dignity means respecting and trusting women’s individual needs and knowledge.

The research was conducted by Jenny Hall, Jillian Ireland and Professor Vanora Hundley at Bournemouth University and Dr Bethan Collins, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the University of Liverpool. You can view the full report here.

Transforming Consent in Maternity Care

Following the landmark UK Supreme Court decision in the Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board (2015) case, we held a seminar last October (thanks to the generous support of the Sheila Kitzinger Programme at Green Templeton College) to proactively shape the implementation of Montgomery v Lanarkshire in the UK. The report from this seminar is available here.

We identified three streams of work to be taken forward:

1) developing an intrapartum consent tool;
2) training for healthcare professionals in having sensitive "choice" conversations with women; and
3) resources for women to raise awareness of their right to make informed choices.

On the 18th April 2018 we were delighted to co-host a further workshop with NHS England to focus on developing an outline intrapartum consent tool. The draft tool developed as a result of that session is now going to be subject to further user testing with women and healthcare professionals - watch this space!

Would You Like to deliver Training for Birthrights?
Demand for Birthrights training continues to grow and is a vital part of how we address inequalities and change practice at the frontline.

If you're a healthcare or legal professional and would like to help us improve care then we're recruiting volunteer trainers.

You would receive full training and have your expenses reimbursed, and in return we ask you to commit to 2 or 3 days per year of training.
If you're interested in being a trainer for Birthrights or would like to find out more about the sort of training Birthrights can provide please email us here.

Let's Make Birth Better
The Make Birth Better Network is a new collaboration between parents, professionals and peers who are working to influence the maternity journey for everyone. is a resource for parents, parents to be, professionals and wider services.
Here you will find information about birth trauma and read about enhancing your chances of a positive birth. There is a crowd-sourced map showing services where parents can get support after a difficult birth, as well as information about how to make a complaint. There is a platform for women to tell their birth stories and professionals and service can share experiences too. The website is a non-judgmental space where all views are held in equal regard- in this way they hope to provide their users with information to help them make truly informed decisions. 


New Trustee

​Birthrights continues to grow. In January we welcomed a new trustee, Rachel Crasnow QC.

Rachel is a leading silk in equality, employment and human rights work. She practices in all aspects of domestic and EU employment law, acting in high-profile cases in forums including the Supreme Court and CJEU. 

Recruiting for a Social Media Volunteer

Birthrights is looking for a social media savvy volunteer to look after our Twitter and Facebook accounts. The main duty will be scheduling proactive posts on behalf of staff members and Trustees but also flagging up any emerging, relevant discussions on social media and, if volunteer's time allows, responding on our behalf.

This is an ongoing role but we envisage it taking 15-30 minutes a week. We are looking for someone who has some understanding of Twitter and Facebook and perhaps other social media channels, as well as a strong interest in human rights in maternity care. You will need to be able to capture our authoritative, unbiased tone of voice and amplify voices from all corners of the birth world and beyond who are fighting for women's rights. If you are interested please contact us here by 13 July.

You can read more about all of our trustees and staff team here.

Did human rights help you with your pregnancy or birth? 

Then RightsInfo - a human rights charity would like to hear from you!  They're raising awareness about the ways that human rights save lives in the NHS - and are turning them into an animation.
So far they’ve talked to a midwife and now they want to see if there are any women or families that have stories about how human rights have helped them. 
To find out more contact Sarah Wishart, Creative Director at RightsInfo here, and to read about why animations are brilliant for healthcare stories, click here

Would you like to participate in maternity research?

As part of our research project with Birth Companions we are preparing to start interviews with women who have faced severe disadvantage during pregnancy and childbirth to understand their experiences of maternity care.  
If you are based in London and either a woman with experience of maternity care whilst facing severe disadvantage, or a maternity or child protection professional who is interested in taking part in the research, please contact Rebecca Brione

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Birthrights · Union House · 111 New Union Street · Coventry, Warwickshire CV1 2NT · United Kingdom

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