Mother's Right, maternal rights, maternity care, labor and delivery, maternal health, PTSD, obstetric abuse, birth, Michelle Hartney, Birth Words,

Drawing on data such as the fact that the maternal mortality rate in the United States is the highest among all developed nations  — as well as the statistic that African-American women are four times more likely to die during childbirth in America than Caucasian women, Hartney set out to create a powerful and symbolic visual. Hartney and a team of local doulas, midwives, and volunteers hand sewed the gowns, which were silk screened to look like traditional hospital gowns and made from 1,560 yards of fabric and 2,000 yards of trim. On closer examination, however, the gowns are actually decorated with small drawings of the plants which are used to form the basis of laboring medications used on women throughout the years.

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While the display of the gowns was powerful itself, Hartney took the exhibit a step further by making it interactive during the rally. Pairs of volunteers worked together to fold the gowns in the fashion that one might fold an American flag. Interestingly, the traditional flag folding ceremony involves 12 folds, the ninth of which symbolizes womanhood. Hartney’s gowns were cut to a size so that the folding ceremony stopped on the ninth fold. According to Hartney, the reason for this element of the performance was to create a parallel between the growing number of women who are diagnosed with PTSD after giving birth and the number of returning war veterans who experience PTSD.

Other mom-centric pieces from Hartney include MOM$, a commentary on the high costs of having a baby in the United States and which involves women submitting copies of their hospital bills, and Birth Words, which involved Hartney sewing the shocking and degrading comments directed at women while laboring.

Hartney’s work will be turned into a film, Mother’s Right, chronicling obstetric abuse, maternal mortality in the United States, and postpartum PTSD.

+ Michelle Hartney

+ Mother’s Right

via Yahoo!

Second image via Youtube screen grab

All other images © David Hartney except the Birth Words piece (©Jim Prinz)