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Human Rights in Childbirth
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http://humanrightsinchildbirth.org/kellys-story/

In her letter to the hospital after the birth, Kelly wrote: “So then after he yelled at me he cut my Vagina twelve times. So before the episiotomy the nurse said it’s only going to be a little cut. a little cut turned into Dr. A’s horrific rage against me as a human being and against my will to begin with. I wanted to cry so badly and I was so horrified while he was cutting me. I could not believe after explaining I was raped twice that I was going to experience Birth Rape under your care.”

The internet abounds with the stories of women who have described their treatment during childbirth as a “rape,” enough that the phenomenon has a name, “birth rape.” People debate whether mistreatment by medical providers can or should be compared to “real” rape. Kelly has experienced both. She found her past experience of sexual assault relevant enough to childbirth that she shared this experience with the strangers providing her care, telling them clearly that she needed them to respect her right to control over her body and “to be gentle with her.”

Why might Kelly have experienced her non-consented episiotomy as a sexual assault? In most places with a right to informed consent, a doctor who performs a surgery or medical intervention over a patient’s explicit non-consent has committed a legal assault, or a battery. This helps us see how Kelly, as a patient, experienced this non-consented cutting as an assault. But sexual? What did he cut? He cut her birth canal, or as she called it in her letter, her “Vagina.” A center for most women’s sexual life, the place that is indeed violated in many sexual assaults. Kelly said, “No, don’t cut me.” He came at her vagina with scissors anyway, and wrenched her baby out of it. Is it hard to understand how she experienced that as a sexual assault?

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