An event jointly organized by FES, the EMMA Association and the movement “Respectful maternity care!”
In many countries of the East-Central European region, independent birth movements have arisen in recent years aiming at improving the present maternity care systems. These grassroot movements, for instance in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, highlight the need for an evidence-based, woman-centered maternity care as well as try to influence public discourse on birth issues.
Is birth a political or a private issue? How does a woman-centered maternity care look like? How can we define the responsibility of political power, legislation, health institutions, health professionals and women? What are the human rights aspects of childbirth? How can informed decision-making processes, respect and dignity be ensured in childbirth settings? How do the competence of women and health professionals relate to each other? Is birth a feminist issue at all?
We kindly invite you to discuss these and other related questions together with experts and health professionals from Poland, Czecz Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
“The universal rights of women giving birth have deep roots in human rights and include the human rights to health, self-determination, and a private life. Every woman who is giving birth has the right to physical, emotional, and social health during the birthing process. She has the right to free choice around the conditions of the birth, and the interventions on her body (after getting satisfactory information on the process), to the protection of her personal data, and, finally, to always be treated with dignity and respect, without discrimination.”
The aim of our project (from 1/March/ 2015 to 30/April/2016 ) was to facilitate the Hungarian maternity care to become transparent, equally accessible, providing professional care which is based on fair treatment. Furthermore, we supported women to get involved actively in their pregnancy and childbirth and to find the most appropriate type of support for themselves, taking the first step towards their own and their child’s well-being.
Letter to the “Respectful Maternity Care” Movement in Hungary
For the last decades, increasing concerns about the abuse and the disrespect of women during childbirth have been expressed through research and policy making.
The WHO has also shown concern about the excessive medicalization of birth since 1985 when it made recommendations for assisting normal birth and delivery urging administrators and health personnel to review protocols and continuously investigate the relevance of certain practices. Besides, it has been promoting respect for women’s autonomy and perspective when making health judgements and also emphasizing the basic legal principle of informed consent.
Non-profit organizations struggling for women’s rights and for gender equality had the opportunity to introduce themselves at a programme organized by Palantír Film Foundation in Budapest. Our Association also took part in the programme, we were interviewed about our work and had the opportunity to send a message to Romani women on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.
The strategic aim of our project is to make Hungarian maternity care transparent and equally accessible, providing service based on fair treatment and evidence-based practice. Furthermore, our goal is to empower women to take part in their pregnancy and childbirth actively and find the right support for themselves, encouraging them to take the first step for the sake of their own and their children’s well-being. Our project offers personalized, complex support for women in accordance with their own resources and real needs.
Our activity is located mainly in Budapest, where we organise monthly workshops called ‘EMMA Műhely’ (EMMA Hub), covering the topics of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period, providing safe atmosphere where women can find supportive community, have an opportunity to process their negative experiences, exchange practical tips and gain trustworthy information. On every occasion we encourage women to give written feedback to the system, since change can be achieved only if women give their opinion to professionals and decision-makers. We are pleased to see that even such professionals, midwives and students appear at our workshops, who also believe in the change of the system and a woman-centered care.
“Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do, especially if you are in the habit of mocking women who know their rights in childbirth. Support choice whenever possible. Empower women. Listen. Learn. Don’t be part of the problem. Don’t tell her her birth isn’t important or that she is stupid or selfish for caring about it. Be part of the solution. Maybe one day women won’t have to make these birth plans that you feel only exist to annoy you. Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where birth is safe. Don’t criticize the woman who fights for her birth. Stand by her side and fight with her.”
The WHO urges collaboration for dignified and respectful maternity care
The WHO has issued a statement supporting women’s fundamental human right to the highest attainable standard of care during pregnancy and childbirth, including a treatment that fully respects human dignity.
The neglectful, disrespectful or abusive treatment that disregards women’s autonomy violates women’s fundamental rights, and has an adverse effect on the physical and mental health of women and their children. Consequently, it jeopardizes the well-being of families and the entire society.
The WHO calls decision makers, health care professionals, researchers, activists, civil organizations and women themselves to step up collectively against all forms of obstetric violence.
BirthHouse Association supports the statement with its signature, and invites all concerned stakeholders for cooperation. We urge the professional and political decision-makers to commit themselves to improving the Hungarian maternity care into an evidence-based, woman-centered model of care which follows the current and previous WHO recommendations and embraces women’s right to informed consent.
How home-birthing mothers became activists of social change? In her study, Elena Anchevska briskly points out how giving birth in hospitals in Hungary was a traumatic experience for many new mothers, and continues with presenting its later opposite, home-birth as not only a positive, but also an empowering experience for the same mothers. Mastering the structural advantages of a foreigner, the author shows how birthing experiences and a shared belief in women’s right to reproductive self-determination instigated some of her interviewees also to engage in more formal, but effective self-organization “in order to support women and assist them in ensuring and exercising their birth rights, bodily autonomy and control over their bodies, and to make informed decisions on the circumstances of their birth in a dignified manner, free from abuse and coercion.”
Yes, it has finally happened! Agnes is now free from house arrest after 3 years, 4 months and 15 days deprived of her liberty. It came about in these last days when the appeal made by Agnes¨s legal team to the severity of the house arrest conditions was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Budapest. The court ordered the house arrest restrictions be removed and ruled that Agnes could now move freely around the city of Budapest and also throughtout the immediate county that the capital is situated within. She is not however, permitted to go beyond this territory nor is she allowed to advise or consult with pregnant women.