When the proposed suggested criteria in the Nurses and Midwives Bill first started filtering down I immediately knew this would change everything. The implications were huge. If this Bill passed, it would mean that women would no longer be able to make the final decision of where we birth – this right was to be passed to the HSE and insurance companies.
How can someone else, who doesn’t know me, my pregnancy, my history, make this decision for ME? How can anyone else decide where I am safest birthing my baby? Who has the right to decide if I go to hospital, or an MLU, or stay home – to be attended by a midwife or an obstetrician? Who’s choice is it to decide if I use an epidural, or a birth pool, or nothing at all? These are my decisions to make, for the best interest of myself and my baby. I know us best. I care about our best interest more than the HSE, TDs, or insurance companies. I am an intelligent, strong, reasonable, grown woman. Trust me. I want myself and my baby to be healthy. I want us to be safe. I can make these decisions. These are my decisions, not anyone else’s. I will make the best decision for us.
I am a woman, a mother to several small children. I do not have the persuasion of media connections nor political influence. I am often tired, very busy, and find it hard to even find the time to ring my best friend. But this Bill, awakened me. It awakened others too. We spent hours of our precious time phoning and writing TDs. Lobbying like we never had before. Telling our point of view; why this was so very important. We spent days in front of the Dáil, with our children. In the rain. Desperate to reach ONE influential person who could make the difference.
We rejoiced when in 2010 the European Court of Human Rights (CASE OF TERNOVSZKY v. HUNGARY) found that “It is a fundamental human right for women to choose the circumstances in which they give birth, with whom and where, including a choice between hospital and home birth”. This Bill violates that right. It could and would be challenged. Surely it won’t pass. But that day did not come, and the Bill was passed. The disbelief and sadness among women was tangible.
Here we have sat for several years. Waiting. Every day more pregnant women are turned away from their birth choices as a result of the now Nurses and Midwives Act and criteria set out in a Memorandum of Understanding making it illegal for midwives to attend women outside criteria. Women like me are the ones reading their words of anguish, supporting them, consoling them. Not the TDs, or the HSE, or the insurance companies.
Several months ago we learned of a woman who decided to take the HSE to court to remove the blanket ban on homebirth eligibility in order for each woman to decide how and where she births. Her name is Aja Teehan. She is fighting for her right to make a decision, on the best circumstances for her and her baby, in consultation with her husband Charles and their chosen midwife. She is fighting for women to be assessed on an individual basis in their current pregnancy. Based on evidence, not expert opinion.
Aja Teehan, I want to thank you for taking this case. Thank you for standing up for yourself against the inequities and challenging them head on. I can only imagine how difficult this decision and process has been for you. To open yourself, your family, your choices up to criticism from people who don’t know you. To feel the weight of other’s expectations and debate so heavily on your shoulders. Thank you. For your bravery, your strength, your determination. To seek justice. To stand up and say no. And inspiring others. I support you – I admire you. Whatever the outcome, you have already brought change. Women are reclaiming birth in Ireland. Change is afoot. Every best wish for Wednesday – we are with you.
For more on Aja Teehan vs HSE please see Aja’s Blog at:
Aja’s case will be heard on Wednesday July 31st – please come to the Four Courts at 10am to support Aja and her family.