Practising childbirth activism: a politics of evidence

The literature on childbirth organisations focuses on their critical positioning towards medical definitions/practices of birth, their efforts to promote ‘natural’/’normal’ birth, their espousal of a rhetoric of choice and their relationships to feminist activism.

However it says little about the practices through which these organisations seek to achieve their aims. Based upon a comparative study in the UK, Ireland, Portugal and France, we show that in all four organisations, knowledge related activities are central to their activism. Four configurations can be distinguished based on the nature of the evidence underpinning the activism: Irish activism drew extensively on surveys on women’s experiences; UK activism focused on the collection of statistical evidence on medical practices; scientific evidence was put centre stage by the French childbirth organization whereas the youngPortuguese movement harnessed international authoritative evidence to support its change agenda.

Through these activities, the organizations contributed to the production of knowledge, established or expanded discursive spaces and identified new fields of actions. The connections between evidence based activism and the re-shaping of organisational objectives and agendas are made visible as well as the constitutive role of these organisations in naming and framing issues relating to childbirth as distinctfrom merely opposing medicalization.