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Accepted Paper:

Broken birth in broken Britain: hostile environments, maternal care and the devaluing of reproductive labour  
Lucy Lowe (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Ethnographic research with pregnant asylum seekers and refugees examines the social and political environments that devalue the reproductive labour of birthing people and those who support them. This paper illuminates the intersections of migrant surveillance and maternity care.

Paper long abstract:

Pregnant asylum seekers in Glasgow, Scotland, are frequently subject to heightened surveillance and testing throughout their pregnancies, which often leads to high intervention births. Categorised as ‘high risk’ as both immigrants and patients, many people express limited ability to refuse such forms of health ‘care’. Drawing on ethnographic research, this paper examines how maternity care intersects with migrant surveillance and racialized healthcare to produce birth experiences that are intensely monitored, managed, and pathologized, reflecting British anti-immigrant ‘hostile environment’ policies. Yet these experiences – medical interventions, intensive monitoring, a deficiency of consent – are not unique to migrants. They also illuminate a wider practice of devaluing the labour of birth, including that of midwives and doulas, as well as pregnant people. Anthropology has provided crucial insights to obstetric violence and racism through its methodological approaches. Ethnographic research before, during, and after birth can reveal the gendered and racialized devaluing of feminized labour by encompassing diverse experiences and perspectives from within and beyond birthing spaces. Rather than blame healtcare providers for negative reproductive outcomes and experiences, this paper seeks to understand the social and political context that devalues birthing migrants and midwives alike, in order to envision better birthing futures for all.

Panel P50
Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems
  Session 2 Friday 14 April, 2023, -