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ADVANCING PRACTICE Reflections on human rights as a reality for women and midwives

Jo Murphy-Lawless

Sociologist in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Trinity College Dublin and a member of the Birth Project Group

 (October 2015)

We often speak of a woman’s right to choose the way she wishes to give birth. This article discusses how ‘real’ that right is. Some of the legal background to human rights as they relate to childbirth is set out, centred on the 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling in the home birth case, Ternovszky v Hungary. The limitations of this case point to why resorting to the law to achieve their rights about birth may not be the most fruitful remedy for women. Instead the argument is made for creating equality of voice in the clinical area to achieve a stronger collective voice for anchoring human rights in practice.