JoAnna Boudreaux is a Graduate Student in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. Her research focuses on masculine and feminine identities, ideologies of womanhood and motherhood, and how women form understandings of the self. She is an advocate of natural childbirth for healthy women in low-risk pregnancies and part of her research is focused on uncovering the ways in which women have forsaken their own embodied knowledge during the birth process.
This essay will argue that scholars of reproductive healthcare should name the routine coercion surrounding non-evidence based interventions by United States healthcare professionals as ‘obstetric violence’. ‘Obstetric violence’ occurs in many forms: appropriating the woman’s body and birthing process, verbal abuse, intimidation, and coercing the woman into accepting non-evidence based interventions without informed consent. Naming these practices ‘obstetric violence’ will render the problem visible and definable. It will also grant women a means of healing by providing language acknowledging their perspectives. I hearken to the work of feminist scholars who have critiqued the ways in which language upholds gendered relationships of power. I also provide an overview of ‘obstetric violence’ as a legal term used in countries outside of the United States and introduce the arguments of Borges (2018) and Diaz-Tello (2016) who demonstrate the applicability of this term in the legal context of the United States maternal healthcare system. Next, I will discuss specific interventions and their harmful effects to make a case that such practices are, indeed, violent. Finally, I refer to communicative behaviors and perceptions of birth trauma to underscore obstetric violence as a systematic problem in need of identifying.
Naming Obstetric Violence; Coercion, Bullying, and Intimidation in Non-Evidence Based Childbirth Interventions