Midwifery is a profession that emerged out of activism. Today's families benefit from the current Ontario midwifery system thanks to the hard work of women and other activists in the 1970s and 80s (for a detailed look at the history of the profession in this province, see Ivy Bourgeault's book Push!). In the years since midwifery was regulated, midwives have remained committed to a range of social justice movements; defending reproductive rights and standing up against gender-based discrimination.
Pay equity is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Human Rights Code and the Pay Equity Act. As an almost exclusively female profession providing women- and trans-centered health care, midwives have experienced a gender penalty in their pay for more than two decades. In 2013, the AOM filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, claiming the province has continually and systematically set a discriminatory compensation structure for midwives. The tribunal has concluded its hearing and a ruling is expected by June, 2018. We remain active members of the Equal Pay Coalition and fight to close the gender pay gap for everyone. Click here for more resources.
Midwives believe that no laws should restrict the ability to access reproductive health services; birth control; STI/HIV/AIDS testing, care and prevention; sex education; and, of course, access to safe and legal abortion. Attacks on reproductive rights take many forms, including legislative. But legal rights must also be backed up by access – by people having the ability to access health-care services in their daily lives. It’s here that midwives step in to support reproductive justice. Choice is at the very heart of midwifery care. And midwives, as primary health-care providers, actualize and advocate for people’s right to choice. See our position statement on reproductive choice and Q&A on midwives and abortion care.
For babies who are born in developing countries, being breastfed can mean the difference between living and dying. Internationally, one of the factors that undermines people's intentions to breastfeed is the aggressive marketing of infant formula. Nestlé, as one of the world’s largest producer of breastmilk substitutes, continues to violate the UN's International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes. As advocates for maternal and newborn health, Ontario midwives feel it is important support breastfeeding at a global level and to speak out against companies like Nestlé. At the 2016 Annual General Meeting, midwives voted overwhelmingly for the AOM to support the Nestlé boycott and signed on to the global action. You can join the boycott by refusing Nestlé products and letting the company know you are taking a stand. Find more information here.
Ontario law requires that all newborns receive the antibiotic ointment erythromycin in their eyes following birth. Both the AOM and the Canadian Paediatric Society have issued position statements against this outdated public health policy, which is no longer supported by clinical research evidence. Parents should have the right to decline neonatal eye prophylaxis for their newborns. That is why Belleville midwife Liza van de Hoef launched a campaign to end this outdated practice. You can get information about this campaign here.
Refugee Health Care
When the Conservative federal government announced cutbacks refugee health benefits provided under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), midwives spoke out by attending rallies and lobbying to government. Midwives rejoiced when, in 2014, the federal court struck down the IFHP cuts as “cruel and unusual treatment” and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We applaud the current Liberal government for fully reinstating health-care coverage for refugees.
Growing the midwifery profession is significantly hampered by hospital restrictions, such as limiting the number of midwives who receive privileges or the number of births midwives can attend. These restrictions prevent midwifery practice groups from hiring new midwives, thereby limiting families' access to midwifery care. The AOM continues to work with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and other stakeholders to address these challenges. Midwives can access a number of hospital integration resources here.