Parents and midwives protest in Prague for woman's right to give birth at home

21-01-2004

Only a tiny minority of Czech women choose to give birth outside hospital, but they should still be allowed to make a choice - or at least that's what both the World Health Organisation and the European Union recommend. But Czech women may soon be denied the choice of giving birth at home with the assistance of a midwife - if the Senate approves a bill recently passed by the lower house. On Tuesday, mothers and fathers with young children and midwives gathered in the centre of Prague to protest against the move. Pavla Horakova spoke there to midwife Zuzana Stromerova.

"This law speaks about the ability of implementing the profession of a midwife. In all European countries, the midwife is an autonomous, independent profession and the midwife can do everything around a healthy pregnant woman and she can conduct a normal birth without any directions from a doctor. In the Czech Republic there is a tendency among the lawmakers to prepare a law which would forbid the midwives to conduct the normal birth and which would in fact prevent the mothers from giving birth at home. And we think it is against human rights to make such a prohibition and that is why the demonstration is here: we are demonstrating for the right of the woman to choose the place of her birth and to choose the care provider."

And what happens if this law is passed by the Senate?

"We will see. Because I know that the European Commission is keeping an eye on the legislation and the harmonisation of the legislation of the accession countries and I think there will be some punishment for our government and our government will be strongly recommended to change this part of the law. So I hope that in case it is passed by the Senate, then the European Commission would have a word."

Do you think it will be passed?

"According to my information - I hope not. I hope that wisdom will win."

Regardless of the law, if it is passed or not, what can expectant mothers do now if they want the care of a midwife?

"If a mother wants to have care which is different from the hospital care, she can try to find an independent midwife. The midwives work in Prague and in other towns, I think they are spread all over the country. Recently, they started a new activity which is called "advisory centres of midwives" and these centres will offer the mothers help during pregnancy, prenatal classes, help during the birth and also post-natal visits. So even now the mothers can have the help of a midwife."

More information - Active Birth Centre www.rodina.cz/cap

21-01-2004

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