Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

Birthrights Submission to Health Committee's Maternity Inquiry

Yesterday the parliamentary Health Committee met as part of a short inquiry into maternity services following the publication of the National Maternity Review report ‘Better Births’. Birthrights submitted written evidence to the Committee, which is now publicly available on the Health Committee’s website.

In summary, Birthrights agrees with the National Maternity Review report’s vision that safe maternity care is personalised care and welcomes its recommendations. In our August 2015 letter to the Review team we set out that safe maternity care is contingent on respectful care and that a rights-based approach offers the best means of improving maternity services in the UK. We echo the insistence throughout the report that healthcare professionals should offer genuine choice and unbiased information and that service infrastructure should be wrapped around women and their needs.

We believe that the human rights legal framework and the values it promotes are vital tools in seeing this vision come to life. Many of the report’s recommendations are supported by rights women should already enjoy. These rights arise from human rights law and existing policy and could provide a strong platform from which to drive implementation forwards.

Respect for human rights is fundamental to all healthcare. It is particularly critical in maternity care, given the transformative nature of childbirth and the moral and legal imperative to respect theautonomy and dignity of women. Moreover, quality maternity care improves experiences for the woman and her family, and affects a baby’s start in life and subsequent life chances. Every mother and baby should have equal access to quality care.

Birthrights believes that the Better Births recommendations could enable professional carers to provide respectful, woman-centred, personalised care which, we argue, will contribute towards optimal physical and psychological outcomes and secure family relationships. We urge the Health Select Committee to draw on the positive power of the human rights principles and framework in making these recommendations a reality.

Read our submission in full here.