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Social Justice, Birth Justice & Midwifery

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Social Justice generally refers to the idea of creating an egalitarian culture or institution, which values a constellation of human rights, and recognizes the dignity of every human being.

There are several categories of human rights that are integral to social justice work:

  • Reproductive rights (human dignity, self determination autonomy and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health)

  • Civil rights (equality and freedom from discrimination, racism, classism, sexism)

  • Political rights (right to participate and be represented in one’s government and political system)

  • Social rights (housing, medical care, food, clothing and necessary services)

  • Cultural rights (ethnic, cultural, traditional, and religious/spiritual self expression)

  • Sexual rights (right to express gender & sexuality w/o limitation, right to marry or not to whomever one chooses)

  • Economic rights (rights to work, earn a living wage, join trade unions, and maintain economic status for favorable quality of life)

  • Environmental rights (including clean air, clean water, nourishing food, and protection from harmful waste)

MANA's Commitment to Social Justice Principles and Practices 

The principles of Social Justice state that each person has a right to live all aspects of his or her life with full access to the resources of a society. The failure in our society to make this a reality has devastating effects on women, babies and families. Racial and ethnic health disparities, poor outcomes for pregnancy and birth and dismal mortality rates for mothers and infants are the driving force behind MANA’s resolve to prioritize a Social Justice Agenda. However, these problems do not exist in a vacuum. According to the Institutes of Medicine they occur in the broader context of “historic and contemporary social and economic inequality.”

In essence, health disparities “are evidence of persistent racial and ethnic discrimination in many sectors of American life.” The Midwives Alliance along with other national and international organizations recognize that who we are, where we live, where we work, the language we speak, our cultures and traditions, and our legal status all affect our health in terms of access to care, implementing healthy change, and ultimately, our outcomes.

What can we do to change the culture in which we live and work, and the beliefs and behaviors that culture has embedded within us?

The Midwives Alliance’s Social Justice Agenda is founded in actions that go beyond mere awareness of the impact that social inequities have on maternal child healthcare. It must directly address the integration of this knowledge into our work by enriching decision-making and organizational operations and communications. We accept responsibility to change, to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

This is a decision that each of us, each midwife, each student, each citizen of the planet must make: to overcome our tacit acceptance of inequities in our society, in our organizations, in ourselves, and in our work with mothers and babies. We must embrace this change, each one of us and all together. The lives of mothers and babies are at stake.