Monday, August 24, 2009

National call to action – Contact your Labor MPs in the next 2 weeks!

I know we're all getting tired of fighting, however we need to keep the energy going to stop this legislation coming into effect. Please read the important update below:

The continuing lobbying efforts by homebirth, midwifery, maternity groups and many of the general public, has moved us considerably further along the fight to save women’s right to choice in birth care. However, we need to do more, and very fast! Parliament will continue debating the Medicare-related legislation on the 7th September - the same day as the planned “Mother of all Rallies in Canberra. We need to urgently ramp up our lobbying efforts of local Labor MPs in the next 2 weeks prior to the 7th September.

Here are the latest developments from the last week:
  • Despite almost 2000 submissions to the Senate Inquiry supporting the right to keep homebirth legal after July 2010, the ALP-majority Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee handed down on 17 August, a disappointing recommendation to pass the legislation. The 2 minority Coalition senators recommended further studies and stopped short at suggesting amendments, while the Greens senator offered one solution of giving independent midwives a temporary exemption from the legislation until an indemnity insurance product could be found.
  • In a meeting with homebirth and midwifery groups on 20th August, Nicola Roxon offered 2 possible solutions: 1) State-based hospital auspiced homebirth or 2) A Commonwealth-funded indemnity insurance product contingent on adopting a framework like the SA Homebirth policy. Feedback from the States show that the first option is not supported by them. The second option of a Commonwealth funded indemnity product is much more preferable, however the SA model will restrict the access to many women (including VBACs), unless there was a ‘duty of care’ clause which allowed women to make an informed choice about the risks and still access the support of a homebirth midwife if they don’t meet the guidelines.
  • Furthermore, this framework requires all homebirth midwives to work in collaboration with an obstetrician and/or GP, potentially resulting in midwives losing the ability to make independent professional decisions about their client’s care without obtaining the ‘approval’ of the obstetrician/GP.
  • Debate on the legislation started on 20th August in Parliament, with positive statements from the Coalition and a few Labor MPs in support of amending the legislation to find a workable solution. The meetings and lobbying efforts are working, but much more needs to be done before Parliament resumes debating this issue on the 7th September.
What needs to happen before 7th September?
  • We need as many people as possible to contact their LABOR MPs to raise the profile of this issue and get into Nicola Roxon’s ear. There are 83 Labor MPs in Australia, and their primary responsibility is to represent you, the constituents in their electorate. We need these backbenchers and ministers to stop Nicola in the corridors of Parliament House to express their concern and put pressure on finding an acceptable solution.
  • Our experience has shown that a simple phone call to the MP’s office (the more people calling, the better) requesting a meeting to discuss the issue, is enough to drive home a very strong message. Even better would be to follow- up with a letter and a meeting with the MP. We need as many people as possible in Labor electorates to pick up your phones in the next 2 weeks and make that call.
  • Save Birth Choices will provide you with all the information you will need: MP guide, sample ‘scripts’ and letter templates. Given the short time frame, you may not get an appointment, but don’t underestimate the power of an individual phone call. It is definitely noticed! If you are lucky enough to get an appointment with your Labor MP, we will provide very detailed coaching and information on how to conduct the meeting.
  • Check to see if you live in an ALP electorate by entering your postcode in the search field on this page If you do, we need your help. Please contact Send mail to urgently, with the name of your electorate and MP and we will guide you through what you need to do.
Time is of the essence- we need your help NOW!

From the Team at Save Birth Choices

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alex Hawke - Federal Member for Mitchell


Last month I had the pleasure of meeting one of my newest constituents, two week old Benjamin Russell, and his mother Anna, who decided to home birth Benjamin, her third baby, after two previous private hospital births.

Had her baby been due this time next year, Mrs Russell would not have that choice, because, as things currently stand, as of July next year home birth with a midwife will be outlawed.

From July 2010 it will be illegal for women to birth at home with a registered midwife in attendance. New national registration laws for health professionals, due to be implemented in July 2010, will require professional indemnity insurance as a condition of registration.

Without it, independent midwives attending homebirths after July 2010 will face large financial penalties.

In June, following a visit to my electorate office by Mrs Russell, midwife Jane Palmer and other concerned constituents, I addressed Parliament regarding my concern about women not being able to birth at home with an independent midwife.

Private maternity could be made more supportive and much cheaper if private midwifery were enabled and recognised. It is important that mothers are able to choose an appropriate model of care in consultation with healthcare professionals based on their individual needs.

It is important that the Rudd Government now acts swiftly to clarify the situation and provide certainty for mothers and health professionals on this very important issue. There is limited time for the Government to act with the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme due to be implemented next year.

The Coalition certainly support the choice of childbirth options for women, and I would like to hear what you think about it, please email me at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Senate ignores women’s pleas on homebirth – recommendation to pass legislation

Media Release: Senate ignores women’s pleas on homebirth – recommendation to pass legislation
Tuesday August 18, 2009.

Today’s Senate report into the Health Legislation Amendment (Midwife and Nurse Practitioner) Bill 2009 and two other related bills failed to support the calls of Australian women to ensure that they can access a registered midwife for birth care at home.

The report recognised the concerns of stakeholders that the intersection of two pieces of legislation - including legislation drafted by COAG on national registration - may have the “unintended consequence” of forcing homebirth underground. However it failed to recommend any solution for the crisis even though they received almost 2000 submissions on the issue and the report clearly identifies that there is a significant issue for women wanting to birth at home.

“We are not seeing the leadership needed to sort this issue out” President of the Australian Private Midwives Association Liz Wilkes said. “This is a good old case of state/Commonwealth buck passing going on. The states are saying the Commonwealth needs to find indemnity and the Senate are now saying that the problem is the state based legislation. In the meantime the clock is ticking for the women of Australia who in just over 10 months will be unable to access a registered midwife to care for them in birth at home.”

The advice from the Senate committee was that the Bill did not restrict women’s right to choose a homebirth nor make it unlawful.

“The use of language to skirt around this issue is amazing. Women in Australia are not in a third world country. They currently have registered midwives available to attend them in birth at home. However this government is choosing to ensure through a complex maze of legislation, that women will have to choose an unregistered care provider from July next year.

“The Federal Department of Health and Aging’s solution to this problem, which they outlined in evidence to the Senate, was for women to be attended at home by someone as long as they do not call themselves a midwife, or be registered as a midwife with the national regulatory body,” Ms Wilkes added. “We find this ridiculous.”

Midwives will face disciplinary action for attending homebirths under state based legislation which makes insurance mandatory for all health practitioners. If midwives de-register and continue to practice, using a midwifery title, they may face a $30,000 fine.

“Of course what we will see is a rise in non-midwives providing homebirth care which will compromise safety for mothers and their precious babies. The Australian Private Midwives’ Association does not believe the only choice available for women is to birth at home with an unregistered care provider.” Ms Wilkes stated. “The real concern is that the Senate heard no evidence to substantiate the government’s position, yet they will wave the legislation through. We definitely have to assume this is more to do with politics and less to do with women and safety.”

Media – Liz Wilkes President Australian Private Midwives Association 0423 580585

Friday, August 14, 2009

Campaign Up-date

The last two weeks have been quite positive. It started with the Greens releasing the statement "Greens will move to protect women's right to choose safe homebirth" on the 31st of July. This was followed very quickly by the Australian Newspaper saying "Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon revealed yesterday she was looking at whether the government could accommodate home births in the $25 million indemnity scheme" (this was released just one day after the Green's announcement). On the 4th of August - a rally outside of Nicola Roxan's office was attended in support by Senator Steve Fielding (one of the key senators that the legislation will have to get past in the senate). On the 6th of August the Senate Inquiry into the homebirth issue was held and made for some fascinating viewing. The senators didn't hold back on repeatedly asking the department of health and medical organisations why has homebirth been excluded and why isn't their consultation with the key stakeholders i.e. consumer and independent midwifery groups (the report for this is due to be released on Monday 17th of August). On the 13th of August - the coalition discussed homebirth at length in the Party Room and Peter Dutton (opposition Health Minister) has come out publicly in support of homebirth.

"Save Birth Choices" Rally T-Shirts

Commemorative "Save Birth Choices" Rally T-shirts to help you to stand out in the crowd.

To order your rally T-Shirt visit Save Birth Choices Website!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Matches on Flickr

As the matches burn closer to my fingertips I think of all of the mothers and babies who will no longer be able to choose a homebirth legally in Australia after 2010.

Time is running out, let your local MP know that you support homebirth and a womans right to choose where she births.

Don't let mothers and babies get burnt by the government and prosecuted for choosing to birth at home. If you are able please attend the Rally in Canberra as outlined below:

Check out this on Flickr
- Matches on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Coalition is on board

I have been contacted by Alex Hawke's office (Federal Member for Mitchell) to say that homebirth was discussed at length in the Coalition Party room meeting on the 13th of August. Below is a relevant transcript for your information.

Transcript of 2UE news grab at Parliament House with the Hon Peter Dutton MP
PETER DUTTON: Mr Rudd has tried to outlaw the practice of home birth, restricting a woman’s choice. The Coalition strongly believes that women should be able to make their own decisions and the Government effectively is putting a $30,000 fine on midwives who practice in home birth and that is not acceptable and the Australian people do not agree with Mr Rudd on this. That is why we are calling on Mr Rudd to change his position, at least restore the status-quo but to suggest that somehow they can drive these changes underground is just not going to work.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Government discriminating against home births, says Homebirth Australia

By Bonny Symons-Brown AAP

August 06, 2009 02:33pm

PROPOSED laws which would stop mothers from accessing registered midwives for homebirths would jeopardise the health of thousands of women and babies, a peak maternity group says.

Homebirth Australia (HA) is angry about a suite of bills introduced to Parliament by the Federal Government in June which propose, among other things, to establish a national midwifery register.

Under the draft laws, midwives must be insured to join the register but private insurers no longer provide cover for homebirthing and the Federal Government has also refused to subsidise professional indemnity for homebirth claims.

HA secretary Justine Caines said the draft laws effectively stop registered midwives legally attending home births.

"The national registration requirement is absolutely appropriate," she told a Senate inquiry into the legislation.

"What is not appropriate has been the (Health Minister Nicola Roxon's) response to say ...'I will enable the funding of one-to-one midwifery care through Medicare for midwives who care for women birthing in the hospital system, but I won't do it for homebirth'."

Despite this, Ms Caines gave the Government the benefit of the doubt, saying any discrimination against homebirthing was an unintended consequence of the registration process.

"I'm not saying that (Ms Roxon) deliberately set out to do this, not at all," she said.

"What she has done is made a giant step forward and been too scared to take the next step because of medical objection, because of the power of the medical lobby."

The Australian Medical Association has previously spoken out against homebirthing, warning it is significantly more dangerous than giving birth in a hospital. But Ms Caines said Labor's legislation would endanger pregnant women who were unable to access registered midwives for their homebirths.

"I don't care if it's 1000 women or 2000 women a year, (Ms Roxon) is putting women in great danger," she said.

"She is also saying 'Your rights don't matter'."

There were both physical and emotional advantages to giving birth at home, Ms Caines said.

"What has come through no doubt in the passion from the women is the ... amazing emotional wellbeing for that woman, for her whole family, but also it does actually impact on clinical wellbeing."

Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert said draft laws effectively rendered homebirths illegal.

"Where there is a low-risk pregnancy it is safe to have a home birth and women and families need to be able to have that choice," she said.

The Greens will seek to amend the bills to ensure homebirthing with registered midwives remains an option for women in Australia.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Home births back on agenda for Labor | The Australian

Home births back on agenda for Labor | The Australian

CANBERRA is reconsidering its controversial exclusion of home births from a new midwifery indemnity scheme, before a Senate challenge to the draft legislation.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon revealed yesterday she was looking at whether the government could accommodate home births in the $25 million indemnity scheme.

"I recognise that a very small proportion of women would like to have home births and (I) am currently investigating if there is some way that we can provide this as an option without making the proposed midwife indemnity insurance unaffordable," she said.

The scheme was welcomed by midwives, when announced in the May budget, as a precursor to next year's expansion of their powers to prescribe subsidised medicines, order publicly funded tests and claim Medicare rebates.

Private midwives had gone without insurance cover since the indemnity crisis at the start of the decade, putting their ability to practise at risk under a new national registration scheme for health professionals that also takes effect next year.

But support for the budget decision fractured when the draft bills revealed home births would not be covered under the new indemnity arrangements.

Not only would home birth midwives continue to lack cover, they would also for the first time be stripped of their professional registration from next July for failure to secure adequate insurance. Unregistered midwives who continue to practice beyond that date could face a $30,000 fine.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert announced yesterday the party would demand changes to the midwife indemnity bill and/or draft national registration legislation, saying the government had made a mess of its attempts to improve maternity services.

"If their planned approach is about providing better choice and safer deliveries, it's going exactly the other way," she said.

"Parents who have already had home births have said to me, 'we will never go back to a clinical situation so we will free birth'. That will put them into a much more dangerous position than before."

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the Coalition would "be open to negotiating with the Greens".

"I have real concerns that the government is essentially putting in place penalties for midwives who assist in a home birth and essentially they're going to drive the practice of home births underground."