Birthrights was founded by a group of lawyers committed to improving women’s experience of childbirth by promoting respect for human rights. Our work is overseen by our board. We have five members of part-time staff.
Chief Executive: AMY GIBBS
Amy Gibbs is a health and human rights campaigner and senior leader with over 12 years experience in national charities, local government and Parliament. Throughout her career she has led teams and organisations to secure legal, policy and practice change for vulnerable adults and children denied their rights by services and society. Amy was a Director of child rights organisations Unicef UK and The Children’s Society, and earlier spent 5 years leading policy and campaigns on social rights and healthcare at mental health charity Mind.
Amy served for 8 years as an elected Councillor for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, including two years as Cabinet Member for Health & Adults Services and Chair of the Health & Wellbeing Board, which oversaw integrated services including maternity care transformation. She has held various non-Executive positions including Vice-Chair of East End Citizens Advice Bureau and Governor of East London Mental Health Foundation Trust. Amy has an MSc in European Public Policy and MA in English Literature and German. When not working for Birthrights, she is kept on her toes by her lively toddler!
Programmes Director: MARIA BOOKER
Maria Booker is a project management and policy professional with over 15 years’ experience of running high profile projects in Government and more recently in the maternity sphere. Maria was previously UK General Manager of Maternity Neighbourhood (a US based, midwife-led company developing a woman-centred electronic maternity record). Maria also led the development of the website Which? Birth Choice for Which? to its launch in 2014. Prior to that Maria had a diverse 11 year career in the Department for Business. Maria has two school age children and is also Chair of her local Maternity Voices Partnership, sits on the South West London Local Maternity System Board and is a member of the acting Committee of National Maternity Voices.
Maria leads the Birthrights policy and legal hub, and also manages our training for healthcare professionals and peer supporters.
REsearch and pARTNERSHIPS officer: rebecca brione
Rebecca Brione is a bioethicist and public policy expert. When not working for Birthrights, she carries out research on reproductive rights and autonomy, on her own and with academic partners. She is a critical friend to maternity services as a user representative on her local Maternity Voices Partnership. She monitors care and decency for women in prison as member of the Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Downview. Rebecca has completed a MA in Bioethics and Medical Law and is a postgraduate associate of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies and a member of the AHRC network Risks of Childbirth in Historical Perspective and the inter-disciplinary Perceptions of Pregnancy network. Prior to moving into maternity work, Rebecca had a ten year career in UK and EU policy and legislation in the Civil Service.
Rebecca leads the research we are undertaking with Birth Companions, as well as overseeing Birthrights’ research strategy and partnerships. She is also involved in wider policy projects as part of our policy and legal hub.
legal officer: reilly willis
Reilly Willis is an international human rights lawyer with a specialisation in women’s rights and gender equality. She has worked for the WHO in Geneva, the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, the ASTRA network in Warsaw, and Options Consultancy Services in London. Reilly holds a JD from New York University School of Law, an MPH from Columbia University, and is in the final stages of her PhD at the University of East Anglia. Reilly was a member of the legal team that brought the first maternal mortality case to the UN human rights system – Alyne da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil – where the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women decided that maternal death was a violation of international human rights obligations. Reilly also spent many years working in programmes, advocacy, and communications for international women’s rights NGOs. Reilly also has experience in supporting HIV+ clients in the US and in South Africa.
Reilly manages our advice line service, and is responsible for ensuring our resources are up to date and accessible. Reilly also leads on any legal interventions undertaken by our policy and legal hub.
administrator: rachael evans
Rachael has spent 15 years working in international development and child rights organisations. Rachael’s experience is in programme development and fundraising, specifically major donor, trusts, and institutional funding. She has spent time working in Sierra Leone, Angola and Ethiopia getting maternal and neonatal health programmes funded. Rachael has recently returned to work after taking several years out to have her family, she is a mother to two young children.
Rachael is responsible for all day to day administration of Birthrights.
Chair: Elizabeth Prochaska
Elizabeth is a barrister and Legal Director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. She specialises in public and human rights law and has a particular interest and expertise in women’s rights relating to pregnancy and childbirth. She regularly advises women and health professionals in this area and has lectured on childbirth rights around the world, working with lawyers and campaigners to promote women’s dignity and autonomy.
You can read her speech on the launch of Birthrights here.
sarah cooke obe
Sarah Cooke OBE is a consultant specialising in human rights and equality issues. She has particular experience and expertise in using the human rights framework to make a practical difference to the lives of vulnerable people. She also has experience of working on strategy and organisational development and evaluation. She has developed a special focus on mental health and social welfare in much of her work. Previously she was Director of the British Institute of Human Rights for seven years, Deputy Chair of the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales and Chair of British Irish Rights Watch. She was also, for five years, the alternate management board member for the UK of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency. She is presently a Specialist Lay Member of the First Tier Tribunal for Health Education and Social Care (Mental Health).
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. She undertakes a wide range of work from equal pay, working time and maternity rights to TUPE, internal disciplinary tribunals and collective rights. She is particularly recognised for her expertise in discrimination law; her practice includes advising in goods & services cases and regulatory work. Rachel is regularly instructed in high value and complex trials by individuals, private companies, and public sector bodies. She is a trained mediator and is often instructed in difficult mediations. Part-time judge. Frequently instructed as an external investigator.
Deborah is a former senior civil servant with 17 years’ policy experience working in the Cabinet Office, Home Office, Ministry of Justice and NHS. She now works freelance as a writer and editor. Deborah is mother to three school-age daughters, including twins.
John is an entrepreneur and business leader who is expert in small businesses, banking and technology. After time at Lehman Brothers and Sky, he worked for 10 years at Barclays as the Marketing and Product Director for Barclays Business before running a fast-growth start-up to scale up company called BCSG. He sold that business and two others during 2016 and 2017 and now acts as a Non-Executive Director, adviser and consultant to a range of companies and charities. He also spends plenty of time with his three school-age daughters.
Julie is a consultant midwife and supervisor of midwives at a London teaching hospital. Her remit as a consultant midwife is promoting normality. Julie is a passionate advocate of personalised maternity care which promotes women’s dignity and empowerment and supports women’s individualised choices regarding their own maternity care.
Carolyn is a consultant anaesthetist at St George’s Hospital in London, with clinical commitments covering obstetric anaesthesia, pre-operative assessment, and renal transplantation amongst others. She has an interest in healthcare improvement, particularly improving patient experience; leading projects improving patient feedback and involving patients as partners in designing new services and safety improvements. She was an NHS London Leadership ‘Darzi’ Fellow and an Improvement Faculty fellow of the NHS Institute of Innovation. She teaches regularly on local, regional and national courses, with particular interests in coaching, simulation and non technical skills/human factors. She is also working with the Royal College of Anaesthetists on research into less-than-full-time training outcomes and developing quality improvement training for doctors.
Simon was the Clinical Director at One to One Midwives and is now a Director of Midwifery in an NHS Trust. A midwife for 20 years, his particular areas of interest are supporting women that have had a previous traumatic experience achieve a more positive outcome in future pregnancies and births and encouraging health professionals to continually question what they do and how they care for women and their families. He strongly believes that promoting a culture within maternity services where women are treated with respect and kindness, and where they feel informed, supported and empowered can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the wider community.
Rebecca was co-chair of the Birthrights’ board from its founding until late 2015 when she became Chief Executive, and from January 2019 Rebecca has rejoined the board as a Trustee. Rebecca is a freelance journalist, author and occasional doula. Her latest book, Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan: a revolutionary guide to pregnancy, birth and the weeks that follow was published by Penguin Life in 2018. She has also written two books on human rights in childbirth published by Pinter and Martin and the Guardian. Before entering the childbirth world as a doula she completed a Masters degree in War Studies with a focus on human rights issues. She has worked in the charity and the NGO sector, most recently at Human Rights Watch.
Catharina (known as Rineke) Schram is a Consultant Obstetrician and Chief Medical Officer at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. Her clinical expertise is in women with medical conditions during pregnancy (e.g. diabetes) and women with complications during childbirth. She has a particular interest in women’s right to informed consent (and informed refusal), and dignity and choice during pregnancy and childbirth. In her professional lead role for doctors she strives to ensure that medical ethical principles such as the right to autonomy, informed consent and confidentiality are upheld and protected.