Human Rights in Childbirth
May 31 – June 1, 2012

The Hague University of Applied Sciences
The Hague, The Netherlands

OverviewProgramme | Panelists | Registration

What are the Rights and Responsibilities of Birthing Women?

Who decides how a baby is born?  Who chooses where a birth takes place?  Who bears the ultimate responsibility for a birth and its outcome?  What are the legal rights of birthing women?  What are the responsibilities of doctors, midwives and other caregivers in childbirth?  What are the rights and interests of the unborn, and how are they protected?

This international conference will convene for discussion and clarity on the scope of birthing women's human rights to authority, support and choice in childbirth.  In December, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights issued the first holding of a high human rights tribunal addressing the legal authority of birthing women as a human rights issue.  In Ternovszky v. Hungary, the ECHR addressed the criminal prosecution of midwives in Hungary for supporting out-of-hospital births.  The ECHR stated that the human right to privacy encompasses,

"inter alia, aspects of an individual's physical and social identity including the right to personal autonomy, personal development and to establish and develop relationships with other human beings and the outside world [cite omitted], and it incorporates the right to respect for both the decisions to become and not to become a parent [cite omitted]. The notion of a freedom implies some measure of choice as to its exercise. The notion of personal autonomy is a fundamental principle underlying the interpretation of the guarantees of Article 8 [cite omitted]. Therefore the right concerning the decision to become a parent includes the right of choosing the circumstances of becoming a parent. The Court is satisfied that the circumstances of giving birth incontestably form part of one's private life for the purposes of this provision; and the [Hungarian] Government did not contest this issue."  Ternovszky v. Hungary, no. 67545/09, 14 December 2010, pp. 22


Aim of the Conference

1. To discuss, debate, explore and clarify the practical implications of the European Court of Human Rights’ 2010 holding that women have a human right to choose the circumstances and location in which they give birth.
2. To convene stakeholders in the obstetric system of the Netherlands for meaningful dialogue about the legal status, efficacy, and future of birth options in this country.
3. To publish a collection of legal and scholarly materials on human rights in childbirth, authored by conference participants.

Conference Format

The conference will be held over two days.  The first day will convene international multi-disciplinary experts able to unpack and explain the context and significance of the European Court of Human Right's 2010 holding in Ternovszky v. Hungary.  The second day will focus on the Dutch birth system, and the role of home and hospital birth in its past, present and future. 

Each of the two days of the conference will consist of four panel discussions of 90 minutes to two hours each.  Each panel will have four experts articulating a range of diverse perspectives and opinions on the subject for that panel’s discussion.  The format of the panels will be structured to include audience participation throughout the conference. 

The conference will convene an audience of up to 500 participants at the Hague University. The audience will consist of lawyers, ob/gyns, midwives, other medical professionals, doulas, students of all these professions, parents and consumer groups and interested parties from a wide range of other disciplines. For those who are unable to atend the conference in person, the conference will also be available by webinar.

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