OBSTETRIC VIOLENCE: Medicalization, authority abuse and sexism within Spanish obstetric assistance. A new name for old issues?
Bellon Sanchez, S.
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Recently, Spain witnessed the emergence and widespread of the concept of ‘obstetric violence’. Some legal texts appeared in Latin-America (Venezuela 2007, Mexico 2007-2014, Argentina 2009), activists and scholars define the concept of 'obstetric violence' as a kind of gender-based violence exercised by healthcare personnel on women and fetuses/children during pregnancy and childbirth. This takes place in form of dehumanized treatments, medicalization and pathologizing of women’s reproductive processes through the appropriation of their bodies, reproductive capacities and sexuality. Harmful practices that have been reported in case files include: the denial of information about the procedures employed during the labor process, humiliations and miscarrying attitudes, excessive rates of cesarean birth, routine medical practices that do not have proven advantages for women and fetuses/children's welfare ( enemas, episiotomies, sedatives, supine position as mandatory, or practices that have been proven risky as the Kristeller‘s method).. The reports made under the label of obstetric violence generally express severe misgiving about the medicalizing approach, professional authoritarianism and sexist attitudes towards pregnant women within the current healthcare system. Through the case of Spain this research aims to understand what are the possibilities of the concept of 'obstetric violence' to raise awareness about the patriarchal, medicalizing and authoritarian practices that seem to take place within the field of obstetrics, since the concept has begun to be used within different movements related to respected childbirth claims in the country. The research departs from the work done by the biopolitical and feminist approaches to healthcare, the issues addressed by women's health movements, the sexual and reproductive rights advocacy and respected childbirth's statements in the Western context, with special emphasis in the context of Spain.