245131 Bridging Partisan Divides to Advance Birth Justice: The Birth Activist Movement

Monday, October 31, 2011: 9:06 AM

Susan Jenkins, JD , The Big Push for Midwives Campaign, Washington, DC
Katherine Prown, PhD , The Big Push for Midwives Campaign, Washington, DC
During the last decade a growing grassroots movement to reform the maternity care system in the U.S. has coalesced around issues as diverse as raising awareness about infant and maternal mortality and racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes, to working to increase access to midwives and out-of-hospital birth. No group better illustrates the unique potential, lessons, and challenges of the birth activist movement than The Big Push for Midwives Campaign, whose mission is simple: expand access to midwives and out-of-hospital maternity by ensuring that Certified Professional Midwives, who undergo specialized training to provide it, are legally authorized to practice in every state and territory.

While the struggle to achieve birth justice is an integral component of the larger reproductive justice movement, what sets birth activism apart is a fierce bipartisanship that is both its greatest strength and its greatest challenge. Women from the far right and the far left, radical feminists and Christian conservatives, pro-life and pro-choice activists are working together in each of the Big Push's state-level campaigns to reach consensus on strategies for advancing CPM legislation in ways that speak to the core values of both Democrats and Republicans. Finding common ground on midwifery issues, however, does not erase tensions around issues such as abortion. This session will analyze those tensions and consider the lessons that others working toward birth justice and sound public health policy in general can glean from The Big Push for Midwives Campaign's organizing and coalition-building model.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify strategies and challenges for bridging partisan divides on advancing birth justice 2. Analyze the ways in which activists from opposite ends of the political spectrum can build coalitions and establish functional and effective working relationships 3. Describe ways in which The Big Push for Midwives Campaign serves as both a cautionary tale and as a model for activists working towards birth and reproductive justice

Keywords: Women's Health, Maternal Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have practiced in this field of law for nearly 30 years, representing midwives, consumers, and state and national associations on various birth-related issues including state regulation, health care payment mechanisms, and access to maternity care. I have been a presenter on these issues at several national conferences.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.