The Childbirth and the Law Forum explored the legal issues surrounding birth at home and in hospital.

Writer and social commentator Catherine Deveny (@catherinedeveny), who hosted the conference says that “there is a crisis in Australian birthing. It is a medical, legal and ethical one. Women are being bullied, manipulated and lied to about their birthing options. It’s time for a rigorous discussion about the whole system. This is it.”

A webcast is available for purchase online ($50). Purchase now.

Keynote speakers Elizabeth Prochaska (UK human rights barrister) and Dr John Seymour (ANU Adjunct Professor of Law) led a complex and intriguing debate on the issues in childbirth about consent, regulation, insurance, rights and professional obligations.

Following the keynote speakers, panellists discussed the role of rights and regulations in maternity care and legal issues about birth with risk factors – coercion and choices.

The first panel looked at the role of regulation in supporting (or restricting) women’s choices and how regulators balance their role of protecting the public with respecting the rights of women and the choices that they make.

The second panel looked at birthing with risk factors with a particular focus on issues of consent and informed decision making across all birth settings.

How do we ensure that women are making genuinely informed decisions and how to we respect those decisions once made? Do women have an unfettered right to make decisions about their maternity care and where they give birth?

The film Freedom for Birth was screened with a special introduction from the filmakers, Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford.

Thank you to all the speakers, panellists and those who sent in questions for the panel both before the event and during the event on twitter using the event hashtag #birthlaw – the website for the event is

The event was held at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta on 12 October 2012. The forum was hosted by Homebirth Australia, the Maternity Coalition and the Australian College of Midwives.



Midwives face legal uncertainty for home births
The Law Report – ABC Radio National (16 October 2012)

Leading human rights lawyer concerned about steep rise in caesarean births
The World Today – ABC Radio (11 October 2012)

Interview Elizabeth Prochaska – ABC Newcastle Mornings (11 October 2012) Listen now

Barrister to lead Childbirth Debate
Lawyers Weekly (10 October 2012)

Thank you to the panellists for contributing their valuable time and expertise to the discussion –

Associate Professor Kristin Savell
• Professor Alec Welsh
• Rachel Reed
• Bashi Hazard
• Robyn Dempsey
• Elizabeth Prochaska
• Dr John Seymour
• Dr Andrew Bisits
• Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen
• Ann Catchlove
• Dr Rebecca Dunlop
Full details of panellists here.