Everyone has the right to decide what happens to their own body – and childbirth is no exception. Every mother has the right to give birth without physical or emotional violence. Every customer of the maternity care system has the right to care in which her legal right to self-determination is respected. Unfortunately this right is not always upheld. Women’s birth stories contain repeated cases of, for example, episiotomies performed without consent or without informing the woman, pressuring to consent to interventions, and violent internal examinations, with the result of physical or emotional trauma. That’s why it’s birthing women’s turn to say #metoo.
We want to show that obstetric violence is a reality in Finland, which has been held up as a model of maternity care in the international community. We also want to show that obstetric violence has serious and far-reaching consequences. We demand an end to obstetric violence and violations of birthing women’s right to self-determination.
We demand that the right to self determination laid down in Finnish law and international human rights agreements be upheld in full within Finnish maternity care and hospitals. We seek a cultural shift towards consent being taken as the basic principle of maternity care. The birthing mother must be assisted and cared for in the way required by the law: in full cooperation with her.
In addition to the physical health of the mother and baby, the emotional wellbeing and good birth experience of the mother must be seen as an essential component of a successful birth. Survival is not enough – we have the resources to expect more.
Obstetric violence is a form of gendered institutional violence targeted at women, and it is prevalent around the world. Birth is a part of a woman’s sexuality, and the experience and consequences of obstetric violence are much the same as other sexual violence. Because of this, obstetric violence must be considered as a form of sexual violence.
Just as with sexual harassment and violence, rights violations during pregnancy and birth are forms of gendered oppression. The difference to other sexual violence is that in maternity care the professional’s power is institutional and medical. The perpetrator may also defend their actions by claiming that they were in the mother’s or baby’s best interest. But as the #metoo movement taught us, violence can never be defined by the perpetrator, only the victim.
Behind the Campaign
Behind the campaign is a group of people who are interested in birth: parents, midwives, and doulas. Anyone can participate in the campaign by sharing their own experiences or the campaign’s posts. The campaign is supported by a variety of people and organizations. The contact information for the coordinators can be found on the contact information page.