In my pre-motherhood days, I believed that feminism was a bit of a historical artifact, that its time and usefulness had come and gone. Women accounted for large portions of university attendees, labour force participation rates among women had climbed, women even occupy positions of power and prestige. I believed that as a woman, I was free to choose in much the same way as a man (and perhaps in someways, even more free than most men) what I did with myself. I never really saw being a woman as being a barrier or precluding myself from having fundamental rights and freedoms. If being a woman meant I could choose to pursue advanced education, choose to pursue a professional career, choose to marry or remain single, choose to be a mother or remain childless - how could it not mean choosing what to do with my body should I decide to be a mother? How can decisions so fundamentally personal as to *how* a child is born or *how* a child is fed be subject to outsiders determining what is in my and my child's best interests? Surely as a woman and as a mother, would I not be in the best position to make this determination for myself and my child?
The City of New York and Mayor Bloomberg doesn't think this is the case.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada doesn't think this is the case (although many of its members do support a woman's right to choose how her child is delivered unless a medical reason precludes that choice from being reasonable).
Many Natural Childbirth Advocates, including Dr. Klein, would prefer if access to certain choices, including epidural pain relief in labour and maternal request cesareans, were strictly limited.
It is one thing to undertake research and better understand the reasons and outcomes of the choices that are made - and to seek to better inform those who must ultimately make such decisions. Knowledge is a good thing, and the pursuit and dissemination of it should be encouraged.
It is quite another thing to assume that those who must make such personal decisions (note these are decisions that have very limited impacts to people outside of the family unit) are incapable of making these decisions for themselves and to develop policies and practices that effectively constrain individuals from making a choice that is ultimately in their own, and their child's own, best interest.
It is admirable to want to increase breastfeeding rates and rates of normal birth - particularly among those who would like to do so and who have determined that doing so is in their own best interest. However, doing so in such a way that infringes on the right of others to choose differently, in pursuit of their own best interests should be deplored. Women should not be forced to breastfeed, forgo pain relief during labour and delivery or forced to deliver vaginally, if they have determined for themselves that doing so is not in their and their child's own best interest.
If feminism is ultimately about a woman's right to be fully informed of her personal choices and to freely choose among them - then feminism is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. Feminists should not stand for such clear infringements and violations of women's personal autonomy - if a woman cannot decide what to do (or not do) with her own body, she at the most basic level has been deprived of a fundamental human right.
I may not make the same reasonable personal choices as another woman, but I fully respect another women's freedom and right to make those different reasonable personal choices. To do otherwise is insidiously misguided and misogynistic.