24 AUGUST 2016

In the volatile political, economic and social climate of post-referendum UK, many of us are anxious and uncertain about the future. Women across their reproductive lives face the same challenges in obtaining full and equal participation in society as before, but with an added concern that the future may be increasingly turbulent – particularly for the most vulnerable in our society.

At Birthrights, the human rights in childbirth charity, we share a belief that despite our differences (and however the consequences of the Brexit vote unfold) there is now an urgency to reinforce and promote a crucial set of values: respect, dignity, equality, justice and fairness. These are the values of the human rights movement.

The need for an understanding of our human rights framework has never been greater. To anchor us, we can hold on to the legal protection of our rights as individuals, and the specific provisions for vulnerable groups. These protections exist in UK law, particularly in the 1998 Human Rights Act, at a European level, through the European Convention on Human Rights, and at an international level.

The values that underpin the human rights movement and the legal scaffolding that gives them teeth are vital now more than ever. Earlier this summer the United Nations expressed “serious concern” about the impact of the UK’s pre-existing austerity policies on the most marginalised and disadvantaged. As we face the prospect of further economic disruption and begin to imagine how this could affect vulnerable groups, it is important to know we are not in a vacuum. Our government has key human rights obligations and it must fulfil them.

With this in mind, Birthrights will continue to defend the human rights of all childbearing women. Whatever the impact of the referendum on the NHS, on midwives, doctors or on the vulnerable migrant women whose risk of maternal death or stillbirth is so high, we will continue to advise women and families, champion their rights, inspire and train their caregivers and use the power of the law to protect them.

Pregnancy and childbirth are an intensely vulnerable time for individuals. The way parents are treated during birth affects them at a time in their lives when their identities as parents are being forged and when they are developing their relationship with the next generation. The long-term physical health of women and of babies is at stake in the care they are given and women’s fundamental rights to human dignity and autonomy can be profoundly affected by their experience of maternity care.

Birthrights is proud to stand with our colleagues and #FaceHerFuture together. We ask you all to help us protect and promote the rights of those going through pregnancy and birth. Our #NewChapter campaign aims to raise awareness of these rights and raise funds to support them. Find out more and be part of the human rights in childbirth revolution today.

Human dignity matters in the post-referendum UK. It should be the principle we live by and the basis of the world we aspire to live in. The safety, equality, respect and dignity of each woman during pregnancy and birth will always be a strong foundation for that aspiration. We must ensure that we all work together.

Find out more about Birthrights’ #NewChapter campaign and order your copy of Why Human Rights in Childbirth Matter.

Rebecca SchillerABOUT AUTHOR

Rebecca is chief executive of the human rights in childbirth charity Birthrights. She writes, speaks and campaigns on reproductive rights, parenting and birth. Her latest book, Why Human Rights in Childbirth Matter, will be published by Pinter and Martin on 15 September.