AIMS: on the barricade defending birth rights

A guest blog today, from Lucy Sangster who has been looking into AIMS’s work.

Who are AIMS?

They are the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services. They’re very well informed, they help when people really need it and there’s a lot to keep them busy.

They’ve been setting out their work as part of an application for full charitable status and it shows what a valuable group they are.

As experts in the field of women’s rights during maternity, many people have to call on AIMS when things go wrong.

One of their services is to be a place where health care professionals can express their worries about the processes and medical cultural expectations that stop women making choices about medical intervention.

They also work abroad, with prisoners and with people in care. They monitor for women who are refused care, homebirths or other maternity services. In Greece they got involved in a case where homebirths were targeted, claiming that if a doctor wasn’t present at the births then the birth certificates must have been forged and that burying a placenta was environmental pollution! The case was eventually dismissed.

Working with women, families and midwives to get legal redress is a key way AIMS make a difference. Sometimes it’s support to make a complaint, other times attending legal hearings, or it can be writing formal letters. They’ve had to help people who’ve been disciplined for upholding women’s human rights and worked on hearings where children could have been taken into care unfairly.

AIMS also offer emotional and practical support to people in need from finding the right person to advise them to financial help with legal expenses.

AIMS work to understand what happens in human rights abuses around birth, so that they can inform how best to change things. They carry out their own research and find researchers and subjects for others’ research too. This means they can offer technical advice to government and professional bodies on human rights in birth. They regularly advise NICE on their guidelines as a recognised stakeholder.

There’s a network of similar organisations across Europe called ENCA (European Network of Childbirth Associations) so that they can add international comparisons to their knowledge base.

AIMS publicise and comment on the issues they raise. They often make use of social media in their campaigns and highlighted the human rights aspects of the death in maternity care of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland. They raise awareness among the public of human rights issues and highlight when choices are threatened, for example, by a service closing.  Their public events bring together international speakers and the films they’ve been involved in – Freedom for Birth and Microbirth – spread the word more widely. If you want to hear the latest, there’s always the AIMS Journal and the website, full of absorbing content.

Their confidential helpline is 0300 365 0663… if you ever need them.