Spain needs to combat obstetric violence - UN Experts Decision

UN sends strong message to Spain, following a complaint to them from a Spanish mother, that their maternity care system must respect human rights. AIMS has commented on this issue previously (Forced inductions – the UK’s shameful secret) and made the following submission AIMS Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur 2019. We are pleased to note that concerns are being taken seriously by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

GENEVA (9 March 2020) - A woman in Spain who went through unnecessary medical interventions during childbirth, including having labour induced without apparent justification, was subjected to obstetric violence, UN women rights experts have found.

The experts from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) were responding to a complaint brought by the woman who suffered lasting physical and mental trauma as a result of what happened to her during childbirth.

In their findings - the first time CEDAW has made a decision related to obstetric violence - the experts urge Spain to adopt public policies to combat such treatment. Obstetric violence includes mistreatment as well as verbal and physical abuse.

The woman, S.M.F, told the Committee that she had gone to a public hospital in Lugo, Spain, when she was 39 weeks and six days pregnant, simply to get advice. She said she was having mild, irregular contractions but was not yet in labour. However, despite this, the medical staff decided to induce labour.

The Committee found "there was no emergency when she arrived at the hospital but that, nevertheless, from the moment she was admitted, she was subjected to numerous interventions about which she received no explanation." In addition, her consent was not sought for the procedures she underwent.

Her baby daughter was immediately taken to the neonatal unit for several days to be treated for an infection that, S.M.F's lawyers argued, might have been the result of excessive and improper medical interventions.

She brought her case to courts in Spain but encountered gender stereotypes and discrimination throughout the judicial process, according to the Committee's findings.

"This woman had had a normal pregnancy but then was subjected to interventions that deeply affected her physical and mental health and the health of her baby," said Gladys Acosta Vargas, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee.

"It's time to stop obstetric violence. Women shouldn't experience abusive or discriminatory treatment during childbirth,"  Acosta Vargas added.

The Committee urged Spain to provide the woman with appropriate reparation for the damage that she had suffered to her physical and psychological health.

Spain is also asked to provide health workers and people working in the judicial system with adequate professional training on women's reproductive health rights, and to ensure access to effective legal procedures in cases of obstetric violence.

"I trust that Spain will take the recommendations made in the decision very seriously, and that the decision's wide dissemination will promote substantial changes in health care protocols in many countries," Acosta Vargas said.

The full decision by the Committee (in Spanish) is available to read online here.

Latest Content

Journal

« »

Book Review: Give Birth like a Femi…

Complete list of book reviews on the AIMS website AIMS Journal, 2020, Vol 32, No 1 Give Birth like a Feminist : Your body. Your baby. Your choices. By Milli Hill Publishe…

Read more

Cracking the media paywall: how to…

AIMS Journal, 2020, Vol 32, No 1 By Jo Dagustun Everyone working to improve maternity services knows very well how the mass media is a really important force in the debat…

Read more

Interview with Professor Jacqueline…

AIMS Journal, 2020, Vol 32, No 1 Interview by Jo Dagustun For this issue, as we mark the 4 th anniversary of Better Births, the AIMS Campaigns team were keen to invite Ja…

Read more

Events

« »

NICE Annual Conference 2020

Registration for the NICE Annual Conference 2020 will open on 22 January 2020. For more details and to register your interest, please visit http://www.niceconference.org.…

Read more

IMUK National Conference 2020

The theme of IMUK's 2020 National Conference 2020 is The Science Behind The Art of Midwifery. Speakers to be announced and tickets will be released soon. Information is a…

Read more

Midwifery Today Conference: “Birthi…

21-25 October 2020 The theme for this year's Midwifery Today conference is Birthing in Love: Everyone’s Right. Classes will include: Clinical sessions such as Hemorrhage,…

Read more

Latest Campaigns

« »

Coronavirus and the Maternity Servi…

AIMS Birth Information Information about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for pregnant women in the UK and links to information sources can be found here . We ai…

Read more

Spain needs to combat obstetric vio…

UN sends strong message to Spain, following a complaint to them from a Spanish mother, that their maternity care system must respect human rights. AIMS has commented on t…

Read more

Response to Guardian Article on acc…

An article titled " Women in labour being refused epidurals, official inquiry finds " appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday 3rd March. AIMS fully supports individuals havin…

Read more