by Justine Caines.
Homebirth Australia (HBA) has played a pivotal role in the campaign to keep the option of private homebirth alive.
HBA successfully lobbied for the ‘Medicare related’ legislation to be examined within a Senate Committee. The Community Affairs (Legislation) Committee is currently looking at the 3 related bills. We believe 2000 submissions have been received, this is an unprecedented response. Thank you to so many who took the time to write.
We have now gained support across the Senate, The Coalition, Greens, Family First and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon have all expressed support to enable women to make important choices about their bodies and healthcare.
The Greens have announced that they will draft an amendment to include homebirth in any funding and indemnity insurance support developed for midwives accessing Medicare.
Minister Nicola Roxon has expressed concern regarding the availability of indemnity insurance for homebirth in the short term. Whilst we believe the Minister is supportive of finding a solution, and this has been confirmed in recent media click here.
We are less convinced that the Department of Health and Ageing are. It would seem that women choosing homebirth have been diminished and are now considered as ‘collateral damage’. Our understanding is that not one current homebirth midwife or consumer has been called upon to brief the Indemnity branch of the Department of Health or the insurance industry. Poor Nicola; how can anyone expect those who have no understanding of homebirth to make decisions about it, while they receive nothing from those with knowledge but rather a raft of ’spin’ from those with deep vested interest in medicalised childbirth.
A feminist academic, and coincidentially a homebirth mother, Monica Dux argued most eloquently that this struggle was simply not about homebirth, but more so that of a fundamental right for women. Her opinion piece appeared in The Age on 17 July:
The assumption…that minority rights are unimportant and can be casually overridden – is both offensive and antithetical to the fundamental values of a liberal society… It is not only the rights of the minority who undertake home birth that are at stake here. This is an issue that impacts on all women.
In the past century we have seen a profound shift in the status of women, from being virtual chattels owned by husbands or fathers, to the attainment of full citizenship and (supposedly) equal rights with men. This hard-won legislative and cultural change has allowed women greater freedoms, but it has also given rise to an expectation of physical dignity, and of ownership over our own bodies, as epitomised in liberal abortion provisions and stricter sexual assault laws.
The legislative squeezing-out of home birth represents a serious regression in this reform process. Given that the new laws will effectively make private midwife-assisted home birth illegal, the Federal Government is acting to deprive most women of the ability to make a fundamental choice about their own bodies; the choice to birth in a non-medicalised environment.
Home Birth Ausralia has just learnt that the Bills will be debated next week in Parliament (how can the Senate committee work through 2000 submissions in such a short space of time?).
Around 6 months ago I made a joke late at night on Facebook that I felt like a Suffragette, I feel like one 24/7 now! I look forward to a fantastic rally in Canberra on September 7. We are looking forward to a very BIG turnout. Women are coming with bellies and babies in tow to give a very clear message to the Rudd Government. ndividual women will decide where and with whom they share the intimacy of birth NOT politicians and bureaucrats.
It has also been confirmed today that Homebirth Australia has been invited to provide oral evidence before the Senate Committee on August 6.