When the COVID-19 pandemic began I was halfway through the first year of my PhD at the University of Manchester. My PhD explores ethical and legal concerns related to developing reproductive technology. During the height of the pandemic I, somewhat accidentally, got drawn into research about the way that the law (particularly in times of crisis) fails to uphold its promise of protecting the autonomy of pregnant women and birthing people. This emphasised to me just how fragile the rights of women and birthing people are, and how much there is still to do if we are to ensure that everyone has access to a positive and rights-respecting birth experience.
While I had been aware of Birthrights’ work for some time, the pandemic really highlighted just how valuable and necessary the services they provide are. I was attracted to working with Birthrights not only because of this vital mission to protect the human rights of pregnant women and birthing people, but also because of the inclusive and supportive approach taken in pursuit of this. Education is a hugely powerful tool for change – something highlighted recently in the Ockenden Review which places considerable emphasis on the need for good quality, multidisciplinary training.
Empowering women and birthing people and healthcare professionals through the provision of information and training about legal rights during pregnancy and birth is a vital step towards protecting all those who provide and receive maternity care. In theory, both domestic and human rights law recognizes that pregnant women and birthing people must be treated with respect during birth, and that they have a right to make autonomous decisions about what does and does not happen to them. However, it is clear that a gap exists between theory and reality – a gap which widens when the person birthing is Black or Brown, or transgender or non-binary. Training, such as that offered by Birthrights, is a vital tool in helping to close that gap.
I am excited to take on the role as an Associate Legal Trainer at Birthrights, as I believe this allows me the opportunity to put my knowledge of the law in this area to meaningful use; not just identifying the problems that exist but also hopefully making a small contribution towards actually tackling these. As someone who is not a healthcare professional and has not worked within maternity services, I initially found the prospect of delivering this training daunting. However, having met some of the incredible and passionate Healthcare Professional Trainers with whom I will be delivering training, I feel that I am in very safe hands – and am glad that the importance of working across disciplinary boundaries has been recognised. Not only do I believe this will result in more useful and well-rounded training, I am also (selfishly!) excited about what I will learn from I work alongside and those who attend the training sessions.
Would you like to be a Birthrights Associate trainer?
Our training equips doctors, midwives and other birth workers with knowledge of the law and human rights principles, an understanding of how to apply it in practice, and the ability to communicate effectively with women and birthing people in a way that upholds their human rights. If you think you could deliver our training, we want to hear from you.
Looking to book Birthrights training?
We offer a 10% discount to multidisciplinary teams.
Need advice about your maternity care?
Knowing your rights and the law in pregnancy and childbirth is important. If you have are pregnant or recently given birth and need advice on any aspect of your care, please contact our advice team.
Our free factsheets provide you with the latest information on your rights, where they come from in law, and how they are backed up in guidance.