Why I Support Human Rights in Childbirth

I Support Human Rights in ChildbirthI support the organization Human Rights in Childbirth (HRiC), and the movement to understand birth as a human right because as a culture, on a global scale, we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that life is sacred. We have forgotten that birth is sacred, that women and babies are sacred. I would go so far as to call birth sacrosanct: “regarded as too important to be interfered with”. Every day, women, babies, birth and life are being desecrated in the name of ‘maternity care’ in the form of needless, fear-based and power-dominating interventions. Pregnant women are repeatedly misled, bullied or coerced into actions they would not have chosen. Of course, sometimes surgeries are needed to save a mother’s and a baby’s life, but all too often, the episiotomies and cesareans are unnecessary or preventable. The stories I hear from the women I work with every day, midwives and doulas working on the ‘front lines’ of birth, are heartbreaking and horrifying. It’s unconscionable to me that women, in the midst of one of the greatest transformations they will experience as a human being, giving birth and becoming a mother, are treated roughly or even aggressively by nurses and doctors — bullied, cut and emerging from their birth experience physically and emotionally scarred for years.

My births were profound rites of passage for me as a woman. Through them, I found power and strength I never knew were in me. I honestly felt I could die, knowing I had truly lived to experience the birth of my two boys.  As a woman who had two positive, empowered and sacred birth experiences, it is deeply troubling to see this power and strength usurped and trod upon daily by a power outside the birthing woman, namely the Western Medical Model of Care. This model, that has been adopted globally as “the best”, insists that in its actions it knows better, and consistently exerts power over women. This is unacceptable.

Shaming and blaming are not ways to create transformation, I know. However, we must not shy away from calling out the atrocities performed in the name of ‘maternity care’ if we are to transform this current paradigm of birth that persists in dominating women. We cannot sit idly by and allow such violations to continue. Many women who experience such assaults upon them have no legal recourse. At the Stand on Your Rights workshop in Manhattan that I recently co-hosted, speaker Cristen Pascucci, founder of birthmonopoly.com declared “[Women’s rights in childbirth] is a non-existent area of law.”

This is where HRiC comes in. To support women in receiving the legal assistance, as well as the emotional support required when they confront this dysfunctional model of care. It is standard practice for hospitals to apologize that “a woman’s experience did not match her expectation,” but rarely if ever, is there any acknowledgment of the coercion, bullying, violations and unnecessary cutting that trusted providers perpetrate upon these vulnerable women.

Human Rights in Childbirth is a powerful global network of lawyers, midwives, public policy makers, doctors, counselors, anthropologists, therapists, activists, and mothers and fathers who are dedicated to advancing the fundamental human rights of birthing women everywhere. We come together to support the basic human rights of a woman to give birth where she wants, when she wants, with whom she chooses, and to do so with dignity and respect. It’s very simple.

HRiC is a beacon of sanity in an insane birth world, a ray of light to brighten the road of awakening and transformation as we, each of us, diligently work to transform this dominant global paradigm of birth and support those who are waking up to the error of these archaic ways.  We do so not with force, but with what is right, fueled by the power of love.

Human Rights in Childbirth is currently raising funds via an Indiegogo campaign to support its continuing work in the world to help make human rights in childbirth a reality. You can learn more about HRiC and the people that are contributing to this movement by going here.


  • Wow, Stephanie, you really tell it like it is, and these words need to be spoken. I love it that this is being addressed as a Human Rights issue, because that is exactly what it is. So very basic. If women are indeed human, it makes it much harder to justify the abuse that is carried out under the guise of “care.” You are such a fierce advocate for this need for change, NOW. I feel the urgency, so that women no longer need to suffer the extended recovery from assault during birth. Thank you for bringing these difficult dynamics into the light in such a compelling and compassionate way.

  • Jon Eric Preston says:

    Thank you Stephanie Dawn for shining a light on this great organization, Human Rights in Childbirth. The change will come when more take action steps along with the calling out of the current medical mode for what it unfortunately is for too many women and babies; assembly line surgery. Imagine how quickly an “overpowered” birth can become an “empowered birth” when both the pregnant woman and the health care providers are taught that the birthing MotherBaby may only need assistance with her natural process, and isn’t there to be taken over as an emergency by the physician, which is all it takes to shift the natural occurrence of birth into a “patient with a medical condition” scenario. Just because the Patient’s Bill of Rights didn’t pass doesn’t mean those rights don’t exist. Knowledge is power, and a strong and informed SUPPORT team is what the birthing woman really needs.

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