I've been keeping half an eye on news related to the Medicare legislation which will be before Parliament when the new session begins on the 7th of September, and I'm partly amused (but mostly disgusted) that a two-year bandaid is the best solution the government could come up with to avoid effectively outlawing private home-birth. (I have to admit, I'm particularly dissappointed that a female Health Minister is apparently so incapable of understanding the issues here.)
According to the National Perinatal Statistics Unit, 4% of mothers in 2003 intended to give birth outside of a conventional labour ward, and 2.8% actually did. Denying midwives practising outside of a maternity ward indemnity insurance, refusing to cover their services under Medicare... apparently its ok to deny basic choice to women who prefer to give birth in a place not condoned and controlled by the edifice that is 'official' medicine. It's no secret that the rate of medical intervention in the birth process is rising, particularly the rate of elective caesarean sections, and particularly in private hospitals. I don't condemn anyone's choice to opt for an elective caesarean, but I think it's important that we don't over-intervene in the process, especially for low-risk pregnancies.
I'm not suggesting here that because childbirth is a natural process that there's no risk involved; modern medicine has improved mortality rates for mothers and children. But there is NO good reason to shunt women into a hospital, to cut off various avenues of choice in what should be an intensely personal process for her and her partner. What right does a democratically elected government have to deny a basic choice like this? Especially when data is available to back up the claim that, in a low-risk situation, women and babies are at no more risk during a home-birth than in hospital.
In still more news: once again, The Age has proven its journalistic worth with what is possibly the smarmiest article I've read in a long time. It's not new for the news media here to drift down the path of 'oooh, an academic!' to vent scorn at the Prime Minister, but this piece of reporting is the worst example of it I've seen in a while. I've no problem heaping scorn on politicians - let's face it, they often deserve it. But really - it says a lot about this country that it's perfectly acceptable to lambast someone for an academic endeavour.