The first birth of S. (And he prefers to keep his identity) The first conviction of obstetric violence in Spain for induced childbirth “without apparent justification”. It happened 14 years ago and in 2020 the UN ruling was issued, but after three years of ruling, this Galician woman continues her litigation until the Spanish judiciary recognizes her case and compensates her. She asserted that they had caused labor without cause, that they had been abused and, among other things, had “manually” removed the placenta. She was also separated from her newborn daughter for a week, and they both checked into the same hospital and gave her a blank birth report. Now, the prosecution, in its unenforceable UN opinion, has taken the case to the Supreme Court.
In September 2009, S. , judicial officer, to the General Hospital of Lugo, the city where she was born and lived before moving to Vigo. She was 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant and came for a ‘consultation’ because she was having irregular contractions. But she was not in labor, according to the UN. Despite this, the doctor who attended her decided to induce labor.
It details “she was subjected to numerous interventions for which she received no explanation” in induced labor without “a clear justification.” Contentment Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Nor did she ask her consent “for the procedures she was subjected to.”
The UN concluded that they had induced labor without apparent justification
A “too used” birth at which her husband could not be present. “The treatment was distant and authoritarian,” laments this Galician woman. They injected him with “synthetic oxytocin” without counseling. This caused him, he says, that the discrepancies were more “painful, intense, and without relief because they are something artificial.” They also gave him Valium intravenously, though he was unaware of this until he saw it in the medical report, which he had to request through the courts after the hospital gave him a blank sheet of paper on his first request. She only remembers that in a conversation, he overheard the anesthesiologist who was going to give her an epidural “Don’t tell her anything, she’s groggy.” Much later, upon reading the word Valium, the comment made sense.
She confirms that she underwent dozens of vaginal examinations, and that the birth ended in severing the vulva without informing her. A birth her husband was not allowed to attend. He denounced that they removed the placenta by “reaching and destroying the walls of the endometrium”. These types of actions are not common and can only be done in cases where there is no automatic eviction or there is some emergency that needs to be dealt with, industry professionals have explained to this broker.
Post-traumatic stress and physical therapy
After the painful birth, S. also stayed in the hospital for a week. Also their newborn daughter, but they can’t be together more than “two and a half hours a day”. The oxytocin would have harmed the mother and she would not stop vomiting. And the newborn remained in the hospital due to a fever, which S. attributes to the multiple vaginal examinations that she underwent and confirmed that they showed in the experiment. This made breastfeeding very difficult.
The sum of all these cases caused S. post-traumatic stress and required psychological help in addition to physiotherapy for an episiotomy. Two years of physical and mental recovery, “complications” and many problems. Even in the process, this woman began a legal journey that still continues after 14 years and that began by having to file a court claim for a birth report. “They ignored me because I am a lawyer and my writing was written correctly.”
Together with Francisca Fernández Guillen, her attorney and who was also a jurist who achieved the other two convictions for obstetric violence in Spain, they filed a lawsuit that was rejected as well as an appeal for constitutional protection in the Constitutional Court. They exhausted all avenues until they decided to take the case to the United Nations, which was approved by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in February 2020. But “Spain has no intention of complying with this or the other two resolutions,” Fernandez Guillen laments. The lawyer explains that the Xunta de Galicia has “taken sides” in this matter and that the Spanish State maintains, for non-compliance with the ruling, that “its courts and tribunals are sovereign”. But Fernandez Guillen, who filed the case with the United Nations with the help of a group of jurists, remembers that if you sign an international treaty, “you must accept and correct what that body says.”
Now the Attorney General of the National Court upheld the decision and said that “indeed treaties must be fulfilled and claims for compensation must be dealt with,” says the lawyer.
The second birth at home
Despite the bad experience with the first birth, in 2014, S. gave birth. This time at home. “The violence of childbirth changes your life project 100%,” he says. “I’ve had two births and can compare,” this Galician tells this medium. She gave birth at home in an attempt to “escape the system” with “three friendly midwives”. “Without intrusions, without separation, with a natural expulsion of the placenta,” he says. She says this birth also helped her validate how both natural and synthetic oxytocin work. Breastfeeding was also better, she explained, because with the first daughter, being able to breastfeed was a “struggle”. He asserts that neither newborns nor their children are anything alike.
After more than a decade of struggle and many “sticks” – all in spite of the opinion of the United Nations – this Galician endorses celebration in small steps as the claim agrees with them. This, for S, is the secret to persistence without giving up. If the Supreme Court’s ruling is upheld, it won’t be a victory for S. “It would be an impressive standard for human rights compliance and anti-discrimination against women,” says her attorney.