Human Rights Law

Under the Human Rights Act 1998, pregnant women have the right to receive maternity care and to make their own choices about that care. The standards of care they are given must respect their dignity.

The Human Rights Act protects your dignity, privacy, equality and autonomy and requires all public bodies, including hospitals and Social Services, to treat pregnant women with dignity, to obtain their informed consent and respect their decisions.

The UK has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. This prohibits pregnancy-related discrimination and requires the provision of healthcare for pregnant and lactating women.

AIMS works with women on many issues that are covered by Human Rights legislation. These include

  • the provision of adequate maternity care
  • the invasion of privacy
  • coerced consent
  • unnecessary or unexplained medical interventions
  • a disregard of a woman’s choice of
    • how or where her birth takes place
    • her birth partner
    • her medical care giver
    • her right for unassisted birth
  • a lack of respect for women’s dignity
  • procedures carried out without consent

These and many other situations may violate human rights and do lead to women being degraded and disempowered.

Issues for the LGBT+ community

There are many challenges faced by the LGBT+ community, in particular in Maternity Services, for trans and non-binary people, not least that the law does not recognise ​some of their basic human rights in pregnancy and birth. ​For instance, when they register the birth of their child, they are not able to register themselves as their correct gender. A trans man who has given birth must be referred to on his child’s birth certificate as the mother, when he might wish to be registered as the father.

Stonewall’s document ‘A Vision for Change - Acceptance without exception for trans people 2017-2020, gives clear information on this subject. Acts such as the Equality Act 2010 states, for example, ‘a woman cannot be discriminated against for breastfeeding in public’. ​It is unclear whether the law would therefore protect a trans man, non-binary person or anyone else who is not a woman but is feeding their baby from their body if they were treated differently for doing so. In order to safeguard their rights and claim their legal protection, they ​may have no option but to formally submit to being a woman, despite the distress ​that this ​may cause. Other rights, for instance those to body autonomy, and the right to make their own decisions, are not affected by LGBTQ+ status".

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/a_vision_for_change.pdf

AIMS works closely with Birthrights, a charity dedicated to promoting respect for human rights from the legal perspective – www.birthrights.org.uk

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