Birthing Social Change FREE Pre-Convention Session Oct 24

Birthing Social Change FREE Pre-Convention Session Oct 24

As a part of the Birthing Social Change: MANA 2013 Annual Convention, MANA is offering a free pre-convention session, designed to help us all work towards a more inclusive profession and greater equity in maternal and infant health. The following post was written by the session leaders (including Annie Menzel CPM, PhC; Wendy Gordon CPM, LM, MPH; Gretchen Spicer CPM, LM; Laura McNeill Groundwork Antiracism Collective Trainer;  Elizabeth Bruno, Groundwork Antiracism Collective Trainer; Marijke van Roojen, LM, CPM) to help us learn more about what to expect. To register, please click hereCEUS have been applied for with ACNM and MEAC.

The 2013 Midwives’ Alliance Convention website says that at “the heart of MANA’s goals” is the mission of “supporting equal access to high quality maternity care for all women and their families.” We can all get behind this aspiration. But how exactly do we translate it into practice? This full-day pre-convention workshop will help to equip midwives to understand three crucial themes that will help lay the groundwork for moving from aspiration to action:

1) the current racial and economic inequalities in access to good care, reflected in worse maternal and infant health among communities of color

Midwives are already working hard to care for many women who are not well served by the system of mainstream maternity care—women in rural areas, women in plain communities, low-income women, young women and older moms.

Many midwives put themselves at legal risk to provide this care, and to keep the crucial option of homebirth open. As we well know, the system of maternity care in the United States is far from ideal across the board. But as a group, white women, especially middle-class and affluent white women, tend to have the most and best options, including midwives from their own communities. 

In contrast, women of color, especially low-income African American, Native, Southeast Asian, and Latina women, have the fewest options for quality maternity care—including very few (if any) midwives from their own communities. The workshop will highlight the connections between these inequalities of access to midwifery education and care and the broader systems of racial and economic injustice in this country.

Using activities incorporating movement and breath; listening and response; and audiovisual resources,we will also demonstrate the ways that these large systems of inequity come to harm the individual lives and health of moms, babies, and families of color, while tending to benefit the lives and health of white moms, babies, and families.

2) the history of how these inequalities came about, and the role that US midwifery has played

Understanding the current state of inequality in access to and outcomes of maternity care will help us move toward change. Through a participatory timeline exercise, we will trace this history.

We will situate the history of midwifery within the broader history of reproductive inequality and violence, from experimentation on enslaved African American women to the sterilization of women of color and institutionalized and incarcerated women, as well as strategies of survival and resilience within communities of color.

We will track the ways that midwifery has been both a history of healing and a history of racial injustice, from Native American midwifery to enslaved African American healers; from the work of Black, Mexican-American, Asian-American, and European-American community midwives to the medical and state campaigns to eliminate them; from the re-emergence of white midwives in the 1970s, which failed to acknowledge much of this history, to present-day barriers to access to midwifery education, care, and professional inclusion for practitioners of color. We will also learn about ways that midwives and birth workers of color have challenged these barriers.

3) what “supporting equal access” would really mean and require for individual midwives, our professional organizations, and our educational institutions.

Together, we will look forward and learn how to make changes in our practices and our day-to-day lives, including small steps you can take right away.

Using role-playing exercises that draw upon participants’ real life experiences, we will practice recognizing and responding to racist speech and situations. We will also think together about how white midwives can apply existing models of antiracist collective action and accountability to midwifery. We will learn about exciting projects for equity in maternal and infant health led by community midwives of color. Brainstorming with others from our regions, we will identify steps toward long-term plans for supporting these projects and dismantling barriers to education and professional inclusion.

In order to build on the learning that we gain, the momentum that we generate, and the connections that we make through this workshop, the facilitators also plan to hold follow-up discussions during the convention, time and locations TBA.

Please join us! Everyone is welcome. Working together to understand ways that whiteness shapes midwifery practices will give us crucial tools for “birthing social change” toward equity in maternity care and real inclusivity in our profession.

While we welcome and encourage everyone to attend the full convention, all birth professionals and student birth professionals are welcome. The session is free and registration is required. Please click here for signup information.



We will be viewing Cracking the Codes, a new film that asks America to talk about the causes and consequences of systemic inequity. Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequityfeatures moving stories from racial justice leaders including Amer Ahmed, Michael Benitez, Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo, Joy DeGruy, Ericka Huggins, Humaira Jackson, Yuko Kodama, Peggy McIntosh, Rinku Sen, Tilman Smith and Tim Wise.

When: Friday 7 pm

Location: TBA at convention

Who: Anyone attending the MANA convention is welcome - you do not need to have attended the full-day workshop to participate.

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