Self portrait by the Artist.
“I took this self portrait after being admitted to hospital at 26 weeks pregnant with contractions. I had to have a vaginal swab to determine if I was in premature labour. This was administered by a male doctor. I was told that the female midwife present could not do the swab as I was under 37wks, despite the fact that it is a simple procedure, similar to smears that are routinely carried out by female nurses.
Current policy on how vaginal examinations are done on women are railroading them into unwanted touch on their genitals. A woman shouldn’t have to ready herself against assault in a medical setting that is supposed to be caring for her.
We need a national debate about consent and vaginal examinations. We need to move away from the current medical policy that demands a woman should have to suffer the psychological fall out of a stranger male putting their hands on her genitals simply because they are a doctor. Women need to be offered other options: either female practitioner care or a HANDS OFF policy.
This portrait is my activism to recover my power, my autonomy over my own body that was taken during this medical examination. How many women suffer this unnecessary form of assault daily? Change policy now. Offer women choice. It’s the least you can do, to not hurt us, in birthing you. ”
A NICE complaint was initiated after this incident resulting in policy change at the hospital. To instigate a national policy change, Susan Luciani calls on advocators www.birthrights.org.uk to mount a campaign challenging current Vaginal Examination practises in the UK.