The work of feminists to normalize woman-centred maternity care in our hospitals and birthing centres, and indeed at home, has been jeopardized by a movement to impose gender neutrality in the name of “inclusivity.” Instead of supporting women, activists are shouting, “People give birth!” and “Chest-feeding is best!” As a radical feminist, I interpret this as a co-optation of our original aims to provide maternity care that respects the female body and its strengths.
As a birth attendant, I’ve witnessed women being pinched, prodded, and poked against their will. In Canada, where socialized medicine is our norm, I’ve seen a doctor stand between a woman’s legs and yell that she had to pay $1600 in cash before he would “deliver” her baby. I’ve witnessed unnecessary surgeries: caesarean sections for no reason, and episiotomies for the sake of training students. I’ve even seen an extra tight perineal repair done with a wink to the husband. I’ve watched while intelligent, educated women are convinced that their babies are too big, too small, or badly positioned. I’ve heard countless stories from women who told me that their cervixes didn’t open, their vaginas were too small, and their uterine contractions were ineffectual. I’ve heard women told that if they don’t agree to interventions like inductions, amniotomies, or epidurals, their babies will die. I’ve seen countless women try to convince medical staff that their pain medication wasn’t working, in vain. I’ve seen other women tell staff they would be giving birth soon, but be ignored. When a woman is held down, made to do things she doesn’t want to do, threatened, or ignored when she is giving birth, that constitutes abuse.
The common thread that runs through all of these stories is abuse. Medical professionals abuse birthing women every day, all over the world, because they are female.