Attorney General rejects AMA’s calls for homicide laws to be used to prosecute homebirth mums

Attorney General rejects AMA’s calls for homicide laws to be used to prosecute homebirth mums

MEDIA RELEASE
29 February 2012

Attorney General rejects AMA’s calls for homicide laws to be used to prosecute homebirth mums

Attorney General Christian Porter has rejected Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dave Mountain’s calls for proposed Western Australian fetal homicide laws to be used as penalties for women who homebirth and those who support them.

The Attorney General told GNW7 News yesterday that he won’t consider the WA AMA’s call to include homebirth related deaths in new proposed fetal homicide laws in WA.

‘To propose criminal charges for women giving birth and their midwives is an outrageous suggestion breaching women’s reproductive rights and Australia’s international legal obligations,’ said Homebirth Australia spokesperson Michelle Meares.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that it was a woman’s right to choose where to give birth. The Court found in Ternovszky v Hungary that a woman’s right to choose the circumstances of becoming a parent is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention (right to private and family life). In its judgment the court also found the threat of sanctions are detrimental to a woman’s ability to choose home birth. This in turn constitutes a violation of the legal security for the exercise of privacy rights, and in particular, violates the principle of legal certainty. The High Court in Australia has made reference to numerous decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in several recent high profile cases.

Latest nationwide figures from 2009 show that there were 863 homebirths across Australia. There were 2 fetal deaths at homebirths. Homebirths had a 99.8% live birth rate. In the same period 2,339 fetal deaths occurred in hospitals or birth centres.

‘We would like to see the same level of scrutiny by the Australian Medical Association into why so many thousands of babies and also mothers are dying in Australian hospitals every year.’ Ms Meares said.

Over 2000 babies and more than 20 mothers are dying in childbirth across Australia in hospital in obstetric managed care each year.

‘In the United Kingdom, homebirth is supported by both the Royal College of Midwives (RMA) and Royal College of Obstetricians (RCOG) and many mothers birth at home safely. The ongoing refusal of the Australian Medical Association to support homebirth just doesn’t make sense.’

‘Trying to ban or criminalise homebirth won’t work and places mothers and babies at risk. We’d like to see them come to the table and work with us to improve homebirth options for women and their families.’

Contact: Michelle Meares 0439 645 372

Source – Statistics from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s mothers and babies 2009 report