Feminist Webs – Motherhood, Maternity and Reproductive rights.

Insights on motherhood, history and women’s rights by feminist academic Kimberley Osivwemu.
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Notes: No. 17 of the Beijing declaration on the rights of the girl child says-

17. The explicit recognition and reaffirmation of the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility, is basic to their empowerment;

“Women have the right to decide whether or not to have children; not to be forcibly sterilised; not to be forced to have children.” – Janet Barsleer

- “A Woman’s right to choose”

-    “M.I.L.F” – The sexualisation of mothers, in the media particularly.

-    Domestic Violence against pregnant women. Higher likelihood that male partners will domestically abuse pregnant women.
One in six pregnant women has suffered domestic violence according to a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology today. March 2003
(Resource 1: See section)

-Teenage Pregnancy; Right time for parenthood?
Why are teenage mums seen as a problem?
When is it positive to have children?
When is it not positive to have children?

- Information on Contraception / Abortion.
(Resource 2: See section)

- “Family Planning Clinics” – Unpacking that. Fresh Brook GUM


Resource 1: Pregnancy and Domestic violence.

For many women pregnancy is a time of happiness and anticipation. But that isn’t the case for every pregnant woman. Many women experience domestic violence during pregnancy.

  • over a third of domestic violence starts of gets worse when a woman is pregnant
  • one midwife in five knows that at least one of her expectant mothers is a victim of domestic violence
  • a further one ins five midwives sees at least one woman a week who she suspects is a victim of domestic violence

domestic violence during pregnancyDomestic violence during pregnancy puts a pregnant woman and her unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, low birth weight, foetal injury and foetal death.

The government is looking at ways of helping midwives and other healthcare professionals find out whether pregnant women are, or at risk of becoming, victims of domestic violence.

If you are pregnant and being abused, Refuge can help you. Your abusive partner is not only potentially endangering your life, but also the life of your unborn baby.

Please call the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline*. We’re there to listen, support and help you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All calls are confidential.

Mel Rawding turned to Refuge after she was abused during her pregnancy:
Mel had never suspected her fiancé – a gunner in the Navy – could be violent but that changed as soon as they got married. At the time Mel was three and a half months pregnant with their first child.

‘Ronnie’s behaviour became increasingly threatening,’ recalls Mel. ‘He would constantly abuse me emotionally and mentally – telling me I was no good, that no-one liked me. He slammed doors, smashed windows and threw dishes. ‘I got used to dead legs and bruised arms, the jealousy and possessiveness – they became a part of everyday life. At the time I didn’t realise how lonely and isolated I was.’

Read Mel’s story here

Raising awareness amongst midwives
In June 2005 Sandra Horley, OBE, chief executive of Refuge, addressed the Nursing and Midwifery Council at the annual midwifery conference to raise awareness of the problem whilst highlighting the vital role midwives can play in supporting women experiencing domestic violence.

As part of the presentation Sandra gave the following statistics (sourced by the Royal College of Midwives, 2004) – that 88% of midwives feel that they should be able to provide help and information to women in this situation, but 28% felt that they did not have the adequate training or skills to do this. Sandra urged that domestic violence training become a mandatory requirement for all antenatal professionals. No one can afford to be complacent about domestic violence.

Many of the attendees said that the lecture left them feeling inspired to make changes in their own practice area.

* run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge

Resource 2: Abortion Facts and Figures.

First things first
Abortion means ending a pregnancy so that it does not result in the birth of a child. If a woman thinks she is pregnant but hasn’t had a pregnancy test done, she needs to do so as soon as possible.

What is a legal abortion?
In England, Wales and Scotland abortion is legal under 24 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors agree that it is necessary for one of the following reasons:

  • having the baby would harm the woman’s mental or physical health more than having the abortion. This involves the woman explaining how she feels about the pregnancy to a doctor.
  • having the baby would harm the mental or physical health of any children she already has.

An abortion is also legal at any time in pregnancy if two doctors agree that:

  • the abortion is necessary to save the woman’s life or prevent serious permanent harm to her mental or physical health, or
  • there is a high risk that the baby would be seriously handicapped.

Note that the stage of pregnancy is calculated from the first day of the woman’s last period. Note also that different laws apply outside England, Wales and Scotland.

How can a woman get an abortion?
To get an abortion on the NHS, a woman needs to be referred by a doctor. This can be her own GP, or a doctor at a local family planning clinic or Brook Centre (for under 25s).
If a doctor has a moral objection to abortion, s/he does not have to be involved. However, s/he should explain this to their patient and make arrangements for her to see another doctor.
It is important to act quickly. The earlier a woman decides to have an abortion, the easier it is to get a free abortion on the NHS. Although the normal legal limit for abortion is 24 weeks, it is usually easiest to get an abortion on the NHS if a woman is under 12 weeks pregnant. There is an average of 2-4 weeks waiting time on the NHS, so it is easier if a woman is under 8 weeks pregnant.
Women can refer themselves for a private abortion. Early abortions start from around £450 and go up to £750 or above in the later stages. For more information on private abortions, visit our useful organisations section.
Once referred for an NHS or private abortion, the woman will need to attend a consultation at the clinic. Her medical history will be taken and a nurse or doctor will discuss what will happen.
Under 16s
A young woman under 16 can have an abortion but special rules apply about consent. Brook Centres are used to seeing young people under 16 and can provide confidential help.
How are abortions carried out?
There are two main early abortion methods:

  • Medical abortion (known as ‘the abortion pill’)

Medical abortion can be performed in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy. It does not involve any surgery. The woman is given a pill (mifepristone) and 36 to 48 hours later, a tablet (prostaglandin) is placed in her vagina. These two drugs end most early pregnancies within the following four hours. It feels like having a heavy and rather painful period.
This method is not available everywhere. Women should check with the referring doctor whether this method is available on the NHS in their area.

  • Vacuum aspiration (known as ‘the suction method’)

This method is available up to 13 weeks of pregnancy. For this procedure the woman has either a general or local anaesthetic. The abortion is carried out through the vagina and there is no wound or stitches. The cervix (the entrance to the womb at the top of the vagina) is gently stretched to allow a tube to pass through it into the womb. Once the tube is inserted, it only takes a minute to remove the pregnancy by suction. Healthy women take only an hour or so to recover and most go home the same day.
Methods used for later abortions will depend on the stage of pregnancy. The exact procedure will be explained by a doctor or nurse before the abortion goes ahead.

Having an abortion should not affect a woman’s ability to have a child in the future.

After an abortion
The woman will experience some bleeding for a few days after the abortion and may have pain like “period pains”. Advice will be given on how to reduce the risk of infection. If bleeding or pain is severe, or she has a raised temperature or unusual vaginal discharge, she should see a doctor as soon as possible as this could mean that she has an infection which needs treatment.
The woman will need to see a doctor about one to six weeks after the abortion to make sure all is well.
It is possible to become pregnant again as soon as 7 days after an abortion. So the woman needs to think about future contraception.