My question here pertains to childbirth autonomy, as I believe that this is an important and often ignored part of the feminist debate.
We have (thankfully) come a long way from the era where women did what the “nice doctor” told them to do while delivering their babies and childbirth was considered a curse that every woman deserved to go through.
We now have an increasingly large number of women who are aware of the pros and cons of so many childbirth interventions and they are exercising their right to accept or refuse these procedures. I applaud this trend and I hope it continues with further success.
What has emerged from this trend is that many women have started demanding the right to ask for choices that have been traditionally balked at- home births, VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) and the very controversial cesarean on demand.
While there has been an outpouring of support for home births and VBACs from the feminist community, there has been absolutely none for epidurals and elective c sections. Why?
I understand that unnecessary interventions which are performed for the doctor’s benefit are a matter of grave concern, but why is there such harsh judgement directed at women who choose epidurals or c sections? A woman being forced into a procedure is one thing, but her making an informed decision to opt for one is another matter altogether isn’t it?
I have read numerous stories about women with tokophobia (a severe phobia of vaginal childbirth) and women with a history of rape, being denied the c sections they requested. Shouldn’t their rights be a feminist cause as well?
If a woman has the right to demand an abortion despite the associated medical risks on the grounds of bodily autonomy, why not a c section? If a woman can demand a VBAC or a home birth despite the associated risks, then why not a c section? If women can demand trivial and yet seriously risky procedures like liposuction and breast implants, then why is there such opposition to them choosing c sections?
May I say that I am fully aware that a c section is a major surgery with a set of associated risks, but isn’t it patronising to assume that women can’t understand that and make an informed choice regardless?
The basis of feminism is choice. Another fundamental principle which is pivotal to the feminist cause is bodily autonomy. Denying an informed woman the right to choose how she wishes to give birth goes against these very principles doesn’t it?
I know that many women will say it’s crazy to opt for a c section without a medical need and that they would never do it. That is completely understandable, and everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, isn’t feminism about respecting the other woman’s choices, even if they conflict with your own? Is the fact that I would never opt for a home birth enough to give me license to judge other women who do?
Why can’t we come together to support ALL childbirth choices? Why can’t we fight the fight to give women the right to have complete control over how they give birth and choose what risks they are willing to take?