Women’s Rights & Midwifery

Prayer and RestWomen today have more rights than our ancestors. As we have made progress it is odd that the loudest voice in the current women’s movement is for abortion. I would rather support the right of women to give birth in the setting that they choose. Across the world there is unresolved controversy over midwifery and home birth.

At the same time that suffragists were fighting for a woman’s right to vote, the medical system in the United States, was fighting against the practice of midwifery.

For the past few years I have been researching the life of Hanna Pörn and her court case. She was a Finnish midwife that received a certificate of midwifery from the Chicago Institute of Midwifery. She lived and worked in the Finnish/Swedish community of Gardner, Massachusetts. After eight years of practice, having better statistical outcomes than the local doctors, she was arrested for practicing medicine without a license. The case went to the district court, and was appealed several times. In 1909 she was found guilty and sentenced to two months in jail.

Other countries have had lawsuits against midwives. In recent years Agnes Gereb left her position as an obstetrician and trained as a home birth midwife in Hungary. After delivering many babies in the home setting, she was arrested because one baby died. She was placed in house arrest and the case has been moving through the courts. You can read about her case here.

Today my husband handed me the Wall Street Journal pointing out this article, Sweden Blacklists an Antiabortion Midwife. Ellinor Grimmark trained as a midwife in Sweden in response to the current shortage of midwives.

In spring 2013, with one term left in her studies, she asked supervisors at the hospital where she planned to work to accommodate her conscience rights. [She did not want to participate in abortion.]

She received a furious call from one manager. “How could you even think of becoming a midwife with these opinions?” *

It is a strange world if, in order to attend the birth of babies, you must be willing to kill babies. This brings to mind the Biblical account of two midwives.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiprah and Puah, “ when you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl let her live.” The midwives however feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do; they let the boys live. Exodus 1: 15-17

Ellinor Grimmark was unable to secure a position in Sweden and is now living and working in Norway. Swedish mothers are coming to Norway to give birth.

Many women are seeking a kinder, gentler way of birth.   Birth  has    physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. Midwives understand this.

So  much  emphasis  is  placed  on  the   physical aspect of birth alone—treating pregnancy like an illness. Frequently, aggressive management of labor takes place in the hospital—and there are consequences. We need to swing the pendulum back. Let labor and birth take place at a natural pace. Midwives have an important role in providing healthy birth care.

In Illinois the Home Birth Safety Act is up for debate in the senate.      Thirty-two states allow midwives to provide home birth care. Illinois should join these states and pass SB 1754. If you live in Illinois, call your state senator and ask him to support SB 1754.

*Sweden Blacklists an Antiabortion Midwife, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2017, A17.

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Is Birth a Human Rights Issue?

The first debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump left me with a sense of incompleteness. Some of the questions posed by the moderator had little relevance to current issues in the United States. After the debate I wrote a letter that was published on the editorial page of our     local newspaper. Here is the text of my letter:

During the first presidential debate the topic of abortion did not come up. Neither candidate was asked about taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. I was thinking about this when I opened the current issue of Midwifery Today. The theme of the issue is: Birth Is A Human Rights Issue.

I wonder if we have lost sight of mothers and their infants in the attention that has been placed on the provision of contraception and abortion.

The article written by Jan Tritten quotes a point listed under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations 1948):      Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Some would like us to believe that the most important issue for women is the freedom to have an abortion.   Is anyone paying attention to        maternal/infant morbidity and mortality? Why is the United States one of the few countries where the maternal death rate is increasing?

More attention needs to be directed at healthy choices that support life. Countries that have a greater percentage of midwives have better outcomes. Many states in the U.S. have limited the practice of midwives. In Illinois midwives have been fighting for legislation that would license them to attend homebirths.

Healthy women want to have the option of giving birth at home with a midwife.

Recently a law that requires pregnancy care centers to offer referrals to abortion clinics (SB 1564) was signed into law in Illinois. This law strips away the conscience rights of health care workers. I hope this law is challenged. In the meantime I think abortion clinics should have the same standard. They [clinics like Planned Parenthood] should be legally required to offer referrals to pregnancy care centers.

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Passion of The Suffragettes: What About Today?

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We went to see The Suffragettes. It was tough to watch the daily life of women who worked long hours in a laundry. The setting in this movie was the early 1900s in London. The main character was gradually drawn into the suffragette movement and became willing to fight for the women’s right to vote, at great personal cost.

I understand the passion of the women that were portrayed on the screen. They were fighting for respect and a voice. I was saddened that they felt compelled to use violence to make their voices heard. They wanted the right to vote and it was a long fight.

Are there issues worth fighting for today? I have been pleased to see that women and parents are coming together to have their voices heard.

The need for improvement in maternity care has been documented. Countries that have a higher percentage of midwives have better outcomes than the United States.

This is from an article published by  the  Global Health Work Force  Alliance:

When midwives were the main providers of care during pregnancy, women were less likely to give birth prematurely or lose their babies before 24 weeks of gestation. Women were reported to be happier with the care they received, had fewer epidurals, fewer assisted births, and fewer episiotomies – or surgical incisions to reduce the risk of a tear. Finally, in midwife-led settings, women were no more likely to have caesarean births, but they tended to be in labour for about half an hour longer on average.

In Illinois the Home Birth Safety Act is going to be introduced in the state House of Representatives. Research has shown that healthy women attended by a certified midwife have births that are as safe as hospital births, with less interventions. The midwives in Illinois have been working hard to promote this bill. You can see the petition that they have posted on change.org here.

In Indiana, parents pushed back against the aggressive promotion of the HPV vaccine for girls. The state health department had entered the vaccination records of children in a state registry and then sent letters out to parents that had not had their daughters vaccinated with the HPV vaccine.  Yikes, when I worked in the hospital the health records of every patient was private, and any violation of privacy was punishable. The following is an excerpt from an article by Jefferey Jaxen about this practice in Indiana.

It took exactly one month to the day for an activated Indiana population to turn back efforts by their state’s health department to coerce and pressure parents, outside of law, into having their children receive the potentially dangerous human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV). Independent health journalist, Jefferey Jaxen, was contacted by two separate families telling of letters they received by their state’s health departments regarding their child’s HPV vaccine status. An article chronicling the incidents was immediately published to raise awareness on October 5th, 2015.

 I am encouraged by these positive actions.  We can use some of the passion that the early suffragettes demonstrated.

The definition of suffrage is: 1 an intercessory prayer, supplication      2a vote given in deciding a controverted question or in the choice of a person for an office or trust.

The definition of a suffragette is:  one who advocates extension of     suffrage especially to women.

How can you participate?

  1. Stay informed—even when the news is unpleasant. The issues that may impact our religious freedom may be uncomfortable. But it is wise to become educated on new policies and laws that affect our families. Then pray with an informed mind, seeking guidance from God.
  2. Write letters to people of influence and to representatives in congress. Change in the Indiana policy came with people writing letters.
  3. Use social media to express opinions with clarity and civility.
  4. Ask questions about health care: medications, treatments and vaccines. Medical history demonstrates that we don’t often realize the negative impact of medication until years down the road.   After a   national study the common practice of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been reduced  because of links to heart disease and cancer. Read about the risks and benefits of HRT here.The birth control pill is also getting more scrutiny. Read this article that explains why one woman stopped using the pill. Science and medicine have provided cures, but they are human institutions. We shouldn’t just follow medical trends. An educated public that asks questions may bring problems to light sooner.
  5. Be an advocate for each member of your family.   We can’t  simply  accept that one type of birth, one medical protocol, one type of treatment, is good for all people.   We have a right to be informed  and  participate in decisions about health care.

Update: the flu vaccine is just 18% effective this year. Click here for link.

Linking with Tuesdays with a TwistA Little R & R,  Friendship Friday,  WholeHearted Home,  Titus 2sdayHope in Every Season, and the Art of Homemaking