All people giving birth have universal rights. Not all people receive access to those rights equally. Black families are denied rights and equal access to rights around the time of birth in disproportionately higher numbers than white families. Equitable access to these rights by Black families and indigenous and other families of color can only occur when healthcare systems become equitable, accessible, and prioritize anti-racist and anti-biased behavior and actions.
It is not the responsibility of Black families to eliminate and fight racism and inequity in the healthcare system. It is important for Black families and their supporters to know their full rights in maternity care during pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. When you know your rights, you know the choices available to you as well as what could be being withheld/taken from you. While advocating for your rights, especially in a system that was built to suppress them, is not always easy or possible, you have a better chance when you know what those rights are.
The following is an extensive list of universal rights for people giving birth:
From the White Ribbon Alliance:
1. Freedom from harm and ill treatment - no one can abuse you.
2. Right to information, informed consent and refusal, and respect for choices and preferences, including the right to companionship of choice wherever possible - no one can force you or do things to you with your knowledge and consent.
3. Right to confidentiality and privacy - no one can expose you or your personal information.
4. Treated with dignity and respect - no one can humiliate or verbally abuse you.
5. Equality, freedom from discrimination, equitable care - no one can discriminate against you because of something they do not like about you.
6. Right to timely healthcare and to the highest attainable level of health - no one can prevent you from getting the maternity care you need.
7. Liberty, autonomy, self‐determination, and freedom from coercion - no one can detain you or your baby without legal authority.
Additional rights from the National Partnership for Women and Families (summarized):
1. Everyone has the right to receive care that is based on best scientific evidence.
2. Everyone has the right to choose a midwife or physician.
3. Everyone has the right to choose their birth setting based on a full range of safe options in their community and based on complete and objective information.
4. Everyone has the right to leave their caregiver and choose another one.
5. Everyone has the right to information on the professional identity and qualifications of everyone involved on their care team.
6. Everyone has the right to communicate with caregivers and receive care in privacy.
7. Everyone has the right to receive care that addresses social and behavioral factors that impact their health.
8. Everyone has the right to be informed if their caregivers wish to enroll them in a research study.
9. Everyone has the right to unrestricted access to all of their records.
10. Everyone has the right to receive care that is appropriate to their cultural and religious background.
11. Everyone has the right to have family members and friends of their choice present during their maternity care.
12. Everyone has the right to continuous social, emotional, and physical care from someone who has been trained in labor support.
13. Everyone has the full information in advance about the risks and benefits of all methods for relieving pain in labor.
14. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement in labor and position choice in birth.
15. Everyone has the right to uninterrupted contact with their newborn, as long as parent and baby are healthy and do not require medical care that would require separation.
16. Everyone has the right to receive complete information about breastfeeding as well as access to professional lactation support throughout breastfeeding.
17. Everyone has the right to decide with their caregivers when they will leave their place of birth to go home, based on individual conditions and circumstances.
If you are a birth professional or advocate, or just someone who wants to know more in depth about rights in birth, check out the paid course "Know My Rights" from Birth Monopoly.
TagsBlack Mothers Birthing Rights Childbearing Rights