If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw during the week that I attended the rally outside the High Court in Dublin on Wednesday to support Aja Teehan in her case against the HSE to lift the blanket ban on homebirths for women who have had a previous Caesarean section. Aja’s case is based on an individual’s right to self-determination and making decisions about themselves based on informed choice. You can read the details of her application on her website here.
I thought that independent midwife Philomena Canning summed it up quite nicely when she said that you pay a solicitor for legal advice but you’re not obliged to take it, and so the same applies to medical advice. You can take in all the research and advice but you should be allowed to make your own decisions based on your own particular circumstances and what you feel is right for you.
The rally was very well attended with many families lending their support to Aja and her husband Charles. The media coverage was also excellent providing a well-rounded picture of the case and both sides of the argument.
But what I found extremely disappointing was the reaction of the general public to the media coverage. Any online content about the case that allowed comments were filled with hateful, uninformed, factually incorrect, insults and attacks on Aja and her family. People didn’t understand the case and instead focused on the “home birth” element of it, calling her selfish, spoilt and claiming she was putting herself and her baby in danger. AIMS Ireland have put together a helpful, factual response to correct the inaccuracy of commentary out there.
Frankly, while I’m disappointed by this reaction, I’m really not surprised because it is a typically Irish one after all. Our history books are full of examples of people sticking their nose into other people’s lives and trying to interfere in things that are absolutely none of their business. The way it seems to work here is if you don’t like something, then the obvious approach is to make sure nobody else can do it. This has been our attitude to contraception, divorce, homosexuality, unmarried mothers, abortion and in this particular case, birth rights. And there’s plenty of other examples there too.
We’re quick to judge before examining the facts and the evidence. It’s to our detriment as a nation because it means change is always slow. But you know what, we’ll get there in the end.
All Aja wants is the opportunity to be assessed as an individual rather than have a blanket policy clamped down on her with no scope for recourse. Yes, she’s had a previous Caesarean section but she’s also extremely fit and healthy and has been assessed as very low risk for complications. She has also produced the research that shows that she’s likely to be safer having her baby at home than in a hospital because once in hospital, her risk of unnecessary medical intervention is higher. Her local hospital is St Luke’s in Kilkenny after all.
The judgement on Aja’s case will be published on 13 August. I await with bated breathe on the result because this landmark court case will set a precedent for improving or further regressing women’s rights in childbirth in Ireland.