• Beverley Beech

Am I Allowed?

Having my first baby changed the course of my life. The way I was treated led to 40 years of activism and my writing the precursor to the book, Am I Allowed? I am now revising and updating Am I Allowed? as the need for it has not gone away.

While the initial energy for the book stemmed from my own experiences of birth, ‘am I allowed?’ was the question that so many pregnant women asked. Many of us felt that the moment our pregnancy had been confirmed by the doctor, we lost the ability to make decisions about our own bodies, and lives. We were infantilised by the ‘experts.’

I have spent the intervening years writing, campaigning and working with women to change things. In 1974 I challenged the Medical Defence Union, which claimed that once a woman enters a hospital she agrees to “any necessary procedure.” They withdrew the claim and this fuelled the campaign to establish women’s human rights in maternity care.

Over these years things did improve. Government policy and health professionals became more aware of women’s human rights. The Human Rights Act was brought in, and many challenges established firmly the right of a woman to determine what is done to her body. Now sadly the under-resourcing of the NHS, followed by the pandemic has turned the clock back and my book and message are as needed as ever.

Women still get told things such as:

I will book you in at the clinic …”

You will have to see the consultant”

You have to have this test”

I’ve made an appointment for your scan next week”

We don’t allow women to go over 40 weeks”

As a result, many women get anxious and concerned. Their gut feeling tells them they do not want to 'comply' - it's just not right for them or their baby. For example, "Am I allowed to refuse a scan?", they ask. YES! You are. It's your body and your baby. As with any other medical test or procedure, you have a right to say no, and you should not have to say it more than once.

The original book was published by the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) and it now needs updating. Since I parted company with AIMS in 2017, the trustees have undertaken not to continue to sell the outdated copies, nor to publish a book with the same title or content.

My plans to re-write, update, and launch the 4th edition of Am I Allowed? in early 2020 were scuppered by a double knee replacement, but lockdown has not stopped me, merely slowed me down in my tracks. I'm saddened to reflect that the need for my book has not gone away but happy to report that the new edition will be out next year, so keep a look out.

Beverley Beech