Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

The Birth Trauma APPG Report: Birthrights’ Statement on Page 66

The best way to reduce/prevent birth trauma is to respect the rights and voices of all women and birthing people throughout their pregnancy and birth. This includes respecting the rights of women and birthing people to make informed decisions about their care and their bodies, even in an emergency.  

The UK has clear law on autonomy and consent established in a line of caselaw including Re MB (1997), St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S (1998) and Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board (2015).The right of a pregnant woman or birthing person, with capacity, to make decisions about what medical care they want to accept, and to decline recommended treatment, even in urgent situations, is well established by the courts. There is no defined legal concept of an “an emergency situation”, where established consent law does not apply.   

We are hugely concerned by the legal inaccuracy contained within the report which suggests that consent may be disregarded in so-called “emergency situations”. This statement is dangerous, and it directly contradicts the law. We ask that this point be urgently corrected within the report and any subsequent published materials related to the report.

Along with others in the maternity sector, we have written a letter for the attention of the members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Birth Trauma to ask for this correction in the report. 

Here are the recommendations we made in our submission to the APPG Parliamentary Inquiry into Birth Trauma:

We know that birth trauma is avoidable and there are steps that can be taken to prevent and minimise it. In summary:

  • The rights of women and birthing people must be centred in how maternity
    services are funded, delivered, designed, managed and regulated so that bodily
    autonomy, self-agency and informed decisions are respected.
  • All decisions made by Trusts must take account of the disproportionate impact
    on some women and birthing people
    including Black and Brown women and
    birthing people, LGBTQIA+ people and those with additional and specific needs
    such as those living with trauma, disabilities, and/or neurodiversity.
  • Interpreting services must be high quality and appropriately regulated so
    healthcare professionals have the necessary tools to ensure that pregnant people
    can have the information they need to make informed decisions
  • Rights-respecting care cannot be delivered without sufficient and meaningful
    investment in maternity services and transparency in decision-making.
Click here to download & read our full submission

The report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Birth Trauma was published in May 2024. Read our full submission to the APPG’s Parliamentary Inquiry Into Birth Trauma by clicking the download button above.

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Fund our vital services providing advice to women and birthing people, training healthcare professionals in rights-respecting care and campaigning for long-term change in maternity services.

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