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What I have been doing

July 16, 2009

Very little time for crafting lately, life has gotten in the way.

Firstly, I would like to say that I am now Ms Surprisingly Domestic, BA (Mass Comm.), Grad Dip (Lib. & Info. Studies). I completed my degree, yay!

Secondly, any spare energy, which isn’t much, has been directed to activism on the proposed laws affecting homebirth.

I’ve made two submissions to committees, written one letter to a local Senator, and spoken to an adviser at my local MP’s office (because my local MP is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and far too terribly busy to speak to little ol’ me).

Here’s one of my submissions, to the National Registration and Accreditation Project:

National Registration and Accreditation Implementation Project

By email nraip@dhs.vic.gov.au

Submission re: Exposure draft of Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009 (Bill B)

My submission relates to the following two sections of the draft legislation:
101 (1a) (ii) that the registered health practitioner must not practise the
health profession unless professional indemnity insurance
arrangements are in force in relation to the practitioner’s
practice of the profession
AND
Subdivision 6 General
148 Directing or inciting unprofessional conduct or professional misconduct
(1) A person must not direct or incite a registered health practitioner to do
anything, in the course of the practitioner’s practice of the health
profession, that amounts to unprofessional conduct or professional
misconduct.
Maximum penalty:
(a) in the case of an individual—$30,000, or
(b) in the case of a body corporate—$60,000.

Taken together, these two sections of the proposed legislation effectively criminalise homebirths attended by independent midwives. Midwife-attended homebirth is a choice currently made by only about one per cent of Australian women. Being in the minority, however, does not invalidate our choice, and I am concerned that Parliament may see fit to pass laws that remove women’s rights to bodily autonomy.

I myself had a traumatic hospital birth almost one year ago. I experience panic attacks when I have had to be in close proximity to the hospital in which this experience occurred, as well as flashbacks and nightmares relating to the birth. Should this legislation pass without alteration, if I have another baby, I will be forced to either return to this hospital to give birth, or give birth at home without trained assistance. I will choose to stay home, but my preferred option – and, statistically, the safest – would be to birth at home with the assistance of an independent midwife.

I propose two possible solutions to this problem:

I. Alter the legislation to provide an exemption for suitably qualified independent midwives. Independent midwives have been practicing without indemnity insurance for many years; or

II. Provide assistance to independent midwives to obtain indemnity insurance, so that they may continue to practice legally.

I did not think that, in Australia, it was acceptable to discriminate against a group of people because their health and lifestyle choices may be in the minority, but this is exactly what this proposed legislation would do. The wording of this legislation is indirect discrimination against homebirthing women. Indirect discrimination is illegal in the workplace under Equal Opportunity laws, so why is this double standard even being considered?

Yours sincerely,

Georgina Ker

What have you done to help protect women’s rights? Don’t leave it all to someone else! Pro forma letters are available – here is one originating from Justine Caines of Homebirth Australia:

Information Sheet – Writing a submission for the Community Affairs – Legislation Committee

Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009 and two related Bills

This Senate Committee is receiving submissions until July 20, so please prioritise this. It is important and it will greatly help those of us at the ‘front’ of the lobbying activity.

You can email them to the Committee Secretary

community.affairs.sen@aph.gov.au

{Date}
{Your name}
{Your address}

Ms Claire Moore
Chair
Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee

By E-mail: community.affairs.sen@aph.gov.au

Dear Senator Moore

Re: Inquiry into Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009 and two related Bills

I write to express my concern about the above bills. I understand that these bills will enable Medicare funding, access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and professional indemnity premium support for midwives providing care for women to give birth in hospital.

Medicare funding for midwifery care is long overdue. It is not acceptable however to exclude homebirth from this funding and indemnity arrangement. By doing this Australia is totally out of step with nations such as the United Kingdom, Canada, The Netherlands and New Zealand.

These nations support the rights of women to choose homebirth and fund a registered midwife through their national health scheme. In New Zealand and the U.K women have a legislative right to choose homebirth.

The intersection of this legislation with the national registration and accreditation of health professionals will prevent homebirth midwives from registering. I believe this to be an unintended consequence and ask that you take steps to include homebirth within the Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) and related Bills.

I support a system where all consumers are treated equally, with the same access to funding and the same insurance protection.

{Please add your own comments here}

Yours sincerely

Your name

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