The love of serving pregnant mothers and their children is a very special love shared by many special people. Pregnancy and childbirth is a part of every culture, and so you will find very different worldviews between those who share the vocation of midwifery. With different worldviews we sometimes find cause for serious divisiveness in areas such as morals and ethics. When midwives are supposed to stand as a united voice for women’s health and empowerment, what happens when we aren’t so united on issues that can’t be taken lightly?
The topic of abortion is one deeply connected to pregnancy and midwifery, and one that seriously divides midwives as well as student midwives. On one end, pro-life midwives believe they have two persons in their care, and they are responsible for the health of both and unable to support actions that’ll cause serious harm to either. On the other end, pro-choice midwives believe the tenant of informed choice in pregnancy spans to the choice to end the pregnancy, and midwives must always provide unbiased support for such even this choice. While the only voice often heard leans towards this pro-choice ideology, those whose consciences prevent them from agreeing feel silenced and alone.
Below are the personal experiences of a midwife and a student midwife:
I remember being totally unprepared. Starting out as a brand new midwife there were plenty of new things I felt unprepared to deal with and it was stressful enough as it was to find my way around in this new job.
I had naively thought the likelihood of having to deal with a termination in my job would be very unlikely. I was therefore totally unprepared to deal with anything else: my emotions, the responses of my colleagues who gave me a hard time and did not understand my conscientious objection. And I had no idea how to deal with the College’s requirement to provide supportive care when a client of mine chose to terminate. My colleagues put pressure on me to attend the termination and pointed out the College expected me to provide the client with supportive midwifery care. Nobody had ever prepared me for a scenario like this.
In just 5 years I have had 4 clients end their pregnancies for abnormalities. It still upsets me. It still confuses me. I still get greatly distressed. I still feel hugely unprepared to deal with these situations. I still want to run away from these scenarios to the point where I think it would be easier not to be in this job.
After years of feeling alone in swimming against the tide, you have no idea how encouraging it is to notice a few other people who are swimming against the tide in the same direction as yourself!
CML has motivated me in letting my voice be heard and I am encouraged that together we can indeed make a difference. I haven’t felt like that in years. I had pretty much given up and even thought at times I might get forced out of my job one day due to my beliefs and convictions.
If we don’t stand up and remain quiet, the left pro-abortion movement may completely take over and push pro-life midwives to the side-lines to the point where we get pushed out of the profession. We simply cannot remain silent, no matter how hard it is to speak out.
~ Registered Midwife
I had nightmares before midwifery school started that I would get called out for my pro-life views. In my nightmares my classmates, whom I did not yet know, all sat in a circle while one pointed her finger at me exposing me as “the one who hates women and wants to deny them their rights to reproductive choice.” Of course, I knew this was a little ridiculous as far as dreams go, and I sincerely hoped that if I kept my head low and didn’t give myself away as pro-life, then everything would be fine.
Fast forward to 2nd year of midwifery school. Our class gets cancelled in order to have a facilitated discussion about abortion. As far as I know, some pro-choice students approached the faculty upset about classmates expressing pro-life views on the internet because midwives should not be openly pro-life. I felt backed into a corner to confess my pro-life views and involvement with pro-life groups on social media. It was a terrifying moment, and suddenly my previous nightmare didn’t seem so far-fetched.
There’s something about it all that doesn’t make sense. In midwifery school we’re taught to be inclusive, open to diversity, tolerant of others. After all, the cultures, beliefs and worldviews of our future clients are sure to also be diverse; how is it wrong for me to think the way I do?
It has been difficult being a pro-life midwifery student. I can’t help but wonder if my views will prevent me from passing my placements, from becoming a midwife, from being accepted by peers and colleagues. After experiencing my first clinical placement, I wondered how my views could be considered a problem, since many of the clients I worked with seemed to share them. I still felt terrified about being genuine around my preceptors. Will I ever feel comfortable as a pro-life midwife? If I’m unable to hold on to my conscience as a midwife, what kind of health care provider could I possibly be?
It was such a relief to be able to call a friend from CML to talk about my struggles. Where else could I turn to find someone who understands? Through CML I know I’m not alone, and I find the strength to maintain my convictions when I feel so pressured to compromise them!
~ Student Midwife
Where does CML come in?
Canadian Midwives for Life exists to support midwives and student midwives who feel isolated, scared, or even targeted for their pro-life views. CML exists to provide encouragement when members experience conflict, legal advice when members are unsure about their rights in a given situation, and resources for how to work in line with their ethics. CML exists to provide a united voice so that a pro-life midwife doesn’t have to feel as though she speaks alone or can’t speak at all.
This is not an organization that seeks to change the minds of colleagues, change the law, or end abortion in Canada. Midwifery is diverse and always will be, but in that diversity there needs to be respect, opportunity to provide perspective, and a willingness to work together. In a country with such extreme abortion provisions, and such heralding approval for abortion from the midwifery world, there needs to be a space for those who do not agree, for those who would be going against their consciences if forced to support, for those who worked just as hard to become midwives and who care just as much for their clients. CML is that space.
Support us in our mission to provide a voice to the silenced midwives in Canada!
In our efforts to support pro-life midwives, we have undergone a legal project hiring a lawyer to review the rights of midwives in every province regarding conscientious objection. The legal review is complete and results will soon be published for all of CML’s registered midwives and student members. You can help us by financially supporting the funding of this project. Please visit www.midwivesforlife.ca/donate.
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