Protecting the Sisterhood: Thoughts from Midwifery Today’s Human Rights in Childbirth Summit, April 2, 2013
by Kathi Valeii
© 2013 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of an article which appears in Midwifery Today, Issue 106, Summer 2013. View other great articles and columns in the table of contents. To read the rest of this article, order your copy of Midwifery Today, Issue 106.]
“What are we going to do about this witch hunt?”
Jan Tritten’s opening remarks to the Human Rights in Childbirth Summit were apropos to the topic at hand: the persecution of midwives. Not only did the summit draw a panel of 10 midwives currently undergoing criminal prosecution, it later became evident that the room was full of midwives who had endured similar persecution at some point during their time of serving women.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term witch hunt as, “the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (as political opponents) with unpopular views.”
Persecuted midwife Katie McCall compiled a list that she calls “Sisters in Chains,” which details more than 100 midwives who have been or are currently being persecuted for practicing their craft. While the list is horrifying, I’m certain it does not capture the entire gravity of the situation. As I sat in the summit room listening to 10 panelists detail their legal encounters, my jaw dropped as woman after woman stepped up to the microphone to tell her own traumatic tale. At the end of the day, when Robbie Davis-Floyd asked who in the room had endured persecution, I had to gather my chin up off the floor when around 75% of the room held up their hands.
Kathi Valeii, in addition to her doula work and homebirth classes, runs a consciousness-raising group called “Roots and Seeds,” which focuses on justice issues in the birthing system. Her blog, www.birthanarchy.com, and developing manuscript tackle the subject of human rights in childbirth.
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