The Coalition of Midwives must be heard

Last October 22, following the outcry caused by the presentation of Bill 15 by the Minister of Health Christian Dubé, the Coalition for the Midwife organized rallies in several cities of the province to allow citizens to express their concern for future of the profession. These threats were named in the open letter published on September 27 a the duty.

In short, it is the loss of professional autonomy that is feared with its impact on the rights of the people who make use of their services. Because the subordination to doctors – whatever the route -, who act according to very different paradigms and a care culture, can lead to a distortion of the services offered by midwives and highly demanded by the population. We note in passing that this letter-manifesto, which initially obtained the approval of around 500 people and organizations, has to date collected more than 12,000 signatures of support.

The Coalition of Midwives is far from being a new organization. For three decades, this alliance has ensured respect for the rights of women and pregnant people through their support for the practice of midwifery. Why such a bias in the situation of a so-called advanced country where, seen from afar, everything seems to be going well in the world of birth? To understand this, we have to go back to the 1970s and 1980s when women and groups of women, encouraged by a feminism in turmoil, loudly expressed their dissatisfaction, sometimes their anger, about the conditions of childbirth. Their discontent is due to various causes, such as the wide spectrum of obstetric and gynecological violence that has been widely discussed in recent years. (Since space does not allow us to provide documentary evidence, we suggest that those interested read the work of Andrée Rivard, History of childbirth in modern Quebec.)

The difficulties that stand out particularly affect the hyper-medicalized model of childbirth prevalent in hospitals. Since the early 1960s, for various reasons, the hospital had become almost the only place for childbirth. Habits acquired in hospital obstetrics involved many limitations and disorders for “particles”, but also a series of drugs had to be administered, instrumental interventions had to be performed and technologies had to be submitted to. Violations of dignity and self-determination (such as the lack of consideration of consent) were also among women’s complaints. Especially in big cities, it was almost impossible for a woman who wanted to have a physiological birth.

For those who campaigned for the changes, the integration of midwives – professionally autonomous – in the health system was considered the most promising way to allow pregnant women who wanted to obtain demedicalized services and give birth outside a hospital center . After thinking it through carefully, there was still a long way to go.

Before midwives were finally legalized in 1999, campaigners, with limited resources, had to be extremely determined and very active to achieve this result. The few legally operating midwives could not have made it without the support of these thousands of people. In 1993, the alliance of activist forces (under the auspices of Regroupement Naissance-Renaissance, today Regroupement Naissance Respectée), now called the Coalition for the Midwife, proved crucial in what was ultimately a victory for them. Since the powerful medical associations had done everything during these years to block the project.

The Coalition then brought together several high-profile feminist associations, including several affiliated with the Fédération des femmes du Québec. Still alive, the Coalition has since been enriched by several new member groups, associated with the feminist, community and trade union movements (consisting of 15 national organizations representing around 800,000 people).

Midwives carry out a mission that was entrusted to them decades ago. This is how the Coalition reminds them, always ready to mobilize when fundamental principles and the development of practice are threatened. This very particular story and the demedicalized approach of midwives who work with people who are “not sick” but are pregnant should convince the government that they need to be treated differently when making important decisions about it. Minister Dubé’s repeated arguments about the need to eliminate “silo” practices in the health system should not involve them, especially since midwives already collaborate with their counterparts in the hospital sector.

The current approach aims to force Minister Dubé to consider what the representatives of the Coalition for Midwives have to say to him, which first involves accepting them. The Coalition has long had legitimacy to represent and defend the rights of women and pregnant people.

Decision-makers must bear in mind that never again will people with wombs accept agreements that affect their rights regarding childbirth and their bodies to be adopted by a majority of men without them being consulted

*Also co-signed this letter:

Marise Bachand, historian, history teacher / Chantal Bayard, sociologist, teacher / Diane Gagné, labor relations teacher / Céline Lemay, midwife, teacher / Pascale Navarro, PhD student in social communication / Anne Roy, science teacher at ‘education / Meygan St -Louis, PhD student in history / Naïma Hamrouni, philosopher and professor in the philosophy and arts department.

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