Women’s right to make choices about childbirth

This is a statement by Birthrights on the issue of ‘high risk’ women being denied access to midwife-led birth centres:

Women’s right to make choices about childbirth is protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to private life).

The right is not absolute, so a woman’s choice can be balanced against other countervailing factors. The birth centre would have to show legitimate aim for her exclusion and that it was a proportionate response to the aim. This includes showing that it has considered the alternative ways it might meet its aim (e.g. if the concern is that she has a high BMI, could the birth centre fit a hoist for the pool etc etc).

As a matter of public law (the law that applies to public bodies), birth centre admission criteria cannot be inflexibly applied so each woman must be individually assessed. Exceptions should be made where necessary to respect the woman’s Article 8 rights.

ECHR applies throughout Europe.

For more information, contact Birthrights