Hundreds protest homebirth restrictions
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is stripping away a woman's right to have her baby at home, protesters around the country have been told.
Hundreds of people have come together across Australia at 13 simultaneous rallies to protest against the government's planned overhaul of maternity care.
NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon told a crowd of about 100 in Sydney that access to a homebirth was a woman's right.
"We are in an extraordinary situation when a woman can choose to have a caesarean but she can't choose to have her children at home," Ms Rhiannon said outside the office of the federal Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek.
Ms Rhiannon said the government had succumbed to pressure from Australian Medical Association, which is opposed to home birthing.
The proposed new laws, introduced to parliament last year, will require all midwives to be insured and part of a new national register.
But a two-year exemption will apply for up to 200 independent midwives, who are unable to gain insurance because it is no longer provided for home birthing.
They will also have to work in collaboration with a doctor - who will be able to override their decisions - to access Medicare insurance and pharmaceutical benefits for homebirths.
The overhaul has outraged homebirth groups, which say the practice will be forced underground, a concern that was also highlighted in a recent Senate inquiry.
Christine Wrightson, who had two planned home births, one of which ended up being in hospital due to complications, told the crowd in Sydney that it was not for the government to decide how women give birth.
"I had one child in hospital and one was born at home - for both births we chose to be under the care of a privately practising midwife," Ms Wrightson said.
"This was because it was extremely important to me to minimise the chance of medical intervention as I strived to have a natural birth.
"At the time I never imagined that this could be something the government could take away from me - not in Australia and not in 2010."
Less than one per cent of births registered each year in Australia are homebirths.
By contrast, The Netherlands has the highest home birth rate in the western world at around 30 per cent.