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Tuesday 19 November 2019

This is a fight for our rights, says mum in battle for home birth

Aja Teehan with her husband Charles Brand
Aja Teehan with her husband Charles Brand

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

A PREGNANT mother who is taking legal action after the HSE refused to provide her with a midwife for a home birth has insisted her case is "not a women's rights issue".

University lecturer Aja Teehan said her action had wider implications for men and women whose autonomy and right to self-determination were "curtailed" by medical policies.

Ms Teehan, senior technology officer at NUI Maynooth's Institute for Research in Irish Historical and Cultural Traditions, has been refused a home birth twice this year because she previously had a caesarean section.

"This is not a women's rights issue, nor is it just about me or my personal experience," said Ms Teehan, who has a six-year-old daughter with her husband Charles Brand.

"This is about supporting other people whose rights to self-determination and personal autonomy are curtailed. There are many other scenarios, other than pregnancy, where these rights are curtailed."

Ms Teehan acknowledges that the issue of home births is "extremely emotive" and divides public opinion.

She said that she had extensively researched the risks associated with vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) and did have "concerns". But she added: "If there are any difficulties, I would be the first to want to transfer to hospital for obstetric help," said Ms Teehan, who believes giving birth in a home setting will alleviate many of the safety concerns.

Ms Teehan, who wants to be assisted during childbirth by Philomena Canning – the high-profile self-employed midwife – is challenging what she says is a "blanket policy" of refusing to permit a home delivery for women with previous caesarean births. She claims the ban violates her family rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The State Claims Agency will only indemnify self-employed midwives on certain conditions, including that they comply with the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the HSE and self-employed midwives.


The MOU does not allow self-employed midwives to assist in home deliveries where a mother has had previous caesarean births.

Under the Nurses and Midwives Act, it is a criminal offence to attend in childbirth outside of the MOU.

Ms Teehan's case is being fully defended by the HSE, which says a review of the Memorandum of Understanding between the HSE and self-employed community midwives is currently under way. It will be heard on July 31.

Almost a third of women gave birth by caesarean section in 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the National Perinatal Reporting System (NPRS).

The upward trend in delivery by caesarean section continues with a rate of 22.4pc reported in 2002 compared with 28.1pc for 2011, representing a 25pc increase in less than a decade.

Irish Independent

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