Media Release – 29 August 2012

Who decides how and where a baby is born? Who bears the risks of childbirth? What legal rights do women have to choose how they give birth? These are just a few of the issues that will be discussed at the upcoming Childbirth and Law Forum on Friday 12 October 2012 at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta.

The Childbirth and Law Forum will begin at 2pm with presentations from  two speakers who will discuss the legal issues facing childbirth today in Australia.

– Elizabeth Prochaska, a human rights barrister from Matrix Chambers in London, is a regular adviser to women and health professionals on the area of women’s rights in childbirth in the UK and Europe. Most recently Elizabeth was involved in the Human Rights in Childbirth event in Hague.

– Dr John Seymour, BA, LL.B, PH.D (Auckland), Dip Crim (Cantab), currently an Adjunct Professor in the ANU College of Law. Before joining the Faculty he acted as the Commissioner in Charge of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into child welfare law in the A.C.T.

“Human rights law has a very valuable role to play in improving maternity services around the world, both by promoting women’s autonomy and dignity and protecting midwives’ right to practice their profession autonomously” said Elizabeth Prochaska.

Following the keynote speakers, panellists of women, doctors, midwives, lawyers and ethicists will discuss the role regulation has in protecting the woman, unborn baby and health professional. Panel 1 will discuss the Regulations and Rights in supporting and restricting women’s choices, and Panel 2 will discuss Birth with Risk Factors such a breech, twins or previous caesarean.

“Regulating a childbearing woman’s body has serious ramifications and undoes hard won battles our feminist forbears fought for and the unintended consequences should give us cause for sober reflection. Where do we stop once we start and who controls what is acceptable behaviour and what is not and who has the ‘rights’ and who does not and what is risky and what is not?” said Hannah Dahlen, Associate Professor of Midwifery University of Western Sydney.

“This forum will explore the legal context of the choices that women make in all settings during pregnancy and childbirth. In bringing together a diverse group of women, clinicians, lawyers and regulators we hope to tackle some of the difficult issues in this area and explore ways to make woman-centred care a reality for all Australian women,” said Ann Catchlove, solicitor and Maternity Coalition National President.

“Australian women and midwives who care for them are increasingly having to interact with the legal system during pregnancy and childbirth and are facing marginalisation and discrimination. Some women are even being refused medical care from other health professionals due to their choice to birth at home,” Michelle Meares, Homebirth Australia.

Following the speakers and panels, the new film ‘Freedom for Birth’ will be screened and there will be a Q & A with the directors in London, Alex and Toni Harman. When pregnant with her second child recently, Anna Ternovzsky took her country to the European Court of Human Rights and won a landmark case that has implications for childbirth around the world.

Tickets are $80 for students and $130 for adults. A webcast option is available. The event is hosted by Homebirth Australia, the Maternity Coalition – Australia’s maternity consumer organisation and the Australian College of Midwives. Attached is the official flyer for The Childbirth and Law Forum.

Contact: Jo Scard, 0457 725 953 or or Michelle Meares 0439 645 372