date - 22 April 2001
Report on "The Aachen Declaration ~ Midwifery for All"
The Aachen Declaration on Midwifery for All was given a standing ovation at the 1st European Midwifery Congress on Out-of Hospital Births 1 October 2000, Aachen, Germany, by participants from 15 European countries. The Declaration aims to enable midwives to take charge of normal birth, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), by developing maternity care systems developing the role of midwifery in primary health, and giving women, regardless of income, a choice of midwife in maternity care, just as, in many European countries, they are given a choice of doctor. Within a framework of gender equality and public health, and believing that improvements in maternity care will come about only if midwifery is strengthened as a profession, the Declaration unites women both as clients and as providers of maternity care.
The Congress (Midwifery Care – Retrogression or Progress?), was organised by Pegasus (the Academy for the Further Education of Midwives), Aachen, Germany, The European Workgroup of Independent Midwives, Epen, The Netherlands, and the German Association of Independent Midwives (BfHD). The conference set out to demonstrate the role of midwifery in primary health care, to bring a midwifery perspective to maternity care policies in Europe; to strengthen the status of the profession, and to promote the development of midwifery within the European Union. Following a conference session on the need for future midwifery action in Europe, the Declaration was drafted by the European Institute of Midwifery, Dublin, Ireland, in consultation with midwives from both national and international midwifery associations.
The Declaration was subsequently endorsed unanimously by 1st Congrese Internacional de Parto y Nacimiento en Casa, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, 22 October, 2000, which was attended by almost 400 midwives and midwifery advocates - including parents and doctors - mainly from Spain and other Hispanic countries, such as Mexico, but also from the Middle East, and North America. The organisers announced at the closure of the conference that they will work to promote Midwifery for All in Spain, and the Association of Midwives in Navarra, which comprises mainly hospital midwives, has indicated its wish to become involved.
Since the beginning of October, the Aachen Declaration has been disseminated in almost every industrialised country in the world. Shortly after it was passed, it was sent to every licensed midwife in California. It was welcomed by participants the International Conference on the Humanisation of Childbirth, at Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil, 4 November, 2000. This conference attracted 2,000 midwives, obstetric nurses, obstetricians, and traditional birth attendants from 26 countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Japan, Thailand, and South Africa. Most recently, the Declaration was warmly received by almost 600 midwives at the 4th International Conference of Natural Birth in Prague, Czech Republic, 1 February, 2001.
There are plans to adapt the Aachen Declaration for other jurisdictions (e.g., by omitting references to the European Region of the WHO), and an Australian version is being considered by the Independent Midwives' Association of Australia. The European Midwives' Liaison Committee has expressed an interest in working with the Declaration. In Britain, the Aachen Declaration has been sent to the Secretary of State for Health as part of the Association of Radical Midwives' campaign for midwife-centred legislation. The Declaration is currently being reviewed by the Swedish Midwives' Association's National and Scientific Boards. Finally, Faith Gibson, the head of the College of Midwifery in the State of California, has sent the Declaration to the State Senator responsible for drafting midwifery legislation, with a view to incorporating a number of its articles into Californian state law on midwifery.
The Declaration has been published in Australia, Britain, Czech Republic France, Ireland, and New Zealand. Widely seen as marking the birth of a new movement in midwifery, not only in Europe but elsewhere, The Aachen Declaration has been translated into German, French, Spanish, and Czech. There are plans for its translation into other languages.