Sunday, August 9, 2009

Come to the help of women

Solace for Mothers is currently starting a letter writing campaign to the newly appointed Presidential Advisor on Violence Against Women. We are writing to her to describe the violations of women's civil rights and violations of federal law that are happening to women as they give birth to their children. We are hoping to include letters from mothers who have been denied their right to refuse medical treatment during labor and birth.

Also being invited to write to the Presidential Advisor are organizations who champion women's reproductive rights including The National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the International Cesarean Awareness Network, The American Civil Liberties Union, The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services and Conscious Woman.

This is all a work in progress right now but it is the direction we hope to take in the next few weeks. More information will become available on the Solace for Mothers website, as well as the opportunities to endorse the letter we will be sending and include your own thoughts and comments.

Today I was reading in the Latter-day Saint canon of scripture and found a verse that I found parallels this project. In Doctrine and Covenants 124:11, The Lord says "Awake, O kings of the earth! Come ye, O, come ye, to the help of my people, the daughters of Zion" (paraphrased to accentuate the parallel). Wouldn't it be nice if God were saying that, in this day, on the topic of women's reproductive freedom to birth without unnecessary medical intervention, and with women's consent before an intervention is performed. It is my prayer that the leaders of the nations become aware of the abuses that are being done to women in the name of birth, and then come to their help and protection by creating punishments for providers who violate their right to refuse treatment.

There has been recent news about a court case in New Jersey were a woman's child was taken into state custody after she refused a C-section that her doctor was claiming was medically necessary. My partner with Solace for Mothers recently wrote a commentary on the story (link to original Huffington Post article) at The Birth Activist.

Then there was this story where a woman was remanded to the custody of the hospital when she disagreed with her doctors recommendation to remain on bedrest.

All over the internet there are stories of women who were not consenting to an episiotomy but one was performed anyway. Often procedures are performed without even informing a woman that it is going to occur, not even giving her the opportunity to consent. It happened to me during my son's birth where I wasn't even informed that the midwife was going to begin suturing a minor second degree tear. Given the opportunity to be informed, I would have denied the sutures preferring to allow the wound to heal on its own. This is a minor example. Other women have been given pain medications without being told that was was going into the IV line, others were given episiotomies or vaginal exams despite their screams of No, Stop and Dont!. Hence, why its called birth rape.

Health care professionals are mandated by federal regulation to grant patients complete informed consent (ACOG's guidelines here). Of course there is no legal recourse or consequence to providers who do not gain a patients consent before performing any procedure. This was discussed in the recent Coalition for Improving Maternity Services Webinar on Informed Consent in Maternity Services. To read more about informed consent, see Goldberg. (2009). Informed Decision Making in Maternity Care. Journal of Perinatal Education. (Winter issue).

Abstract here:
In the United States, federal acts and regulations, as well as professional guidelines, clearly dictate that every pregnant woman has the right to base her maternity care decisions on accurate, up-todate, comprehensible information. Despite these efforts, evidence suggests that informed consent within current health-care practice is restricted and inconsistently implemented. Patient access to evidence-based research is imperative under the scope of informed consent and is particularly important during a time when perinatal mortality and morbidity rates, interventions, and disparities are on the rise in the United States. This article describes the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services' investigation of the breakdown of informed consent in maternity care.

The letter writing campaign is an attempt to advocate for changes to the federal regulations that would create punitive measures and due process when providers do not grant a woman's right to informed consent. As the regulations stand now, there is no recourse available so violations occur without fear of consequences.

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