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Wendy Savage is a Patron of Education For Choice and had a big birthday yesterday (it’s not for me to say how big, but let’s just say it’s a few years since she officially retired). I’d like everyone to raise a glass to an extraordinary woman who has made a massive difference to thousands of women through her women-centred medical practice, her courage and determination, her common sense and her tireless campaigning.

Practising as an obstetrician and gynaecologist since the 1960s, Wendy believes that women can and should make decisions about how to give birth and that a doctor’s role is to facilitate that. At a time when much of the medical establishment remained enthralled by technology and had made a habit of unnecessary medical interventions, Wendy was encouraging women to ‘mobilise’ – to get on their feet and move around, to have a go at labour without the kinds of interference that so often leads to preventable caesareans.

Wendy isn’t really a whale music, incense sticks and scatter cushions kind of a woman. She just believes in good patient-centred medicine. Her work really has been all about women: trusting them to make good decisions and then using all her medical expertise and skills to support them.

She was castigated for her work by the male medical establishment who were as offended by her no-nonsense forthright attitude as they were by her ‘unconventional’ practice. In 1985 she was wrongly accused of incompetence, and suspended while a full investigation took place. In 1986 she was vindicated and went on to continue supporting women to deliver healthy babies for many years. Her refusal to cave in to the establishment helped change the culture around labour and made labour wards a better place for women all over the country.

Although she’s supposed to be retired now Wendy is a whirlwind of activity and activism. She is at the forefront of the campaign to save the NHS, she runs Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion (DWCA) and represents them on the pro-choice coalition Voice For Choice. You could say she’s still encouraging women (and men) to ‘mobilise’, to keep on campaigning for good quality free health care, for better access to abortion, for women-centred maternity care. Education For Choice couldn’t ask for a better patron or a better example to us all. Happy Birthday Wendy.

Lisa is Director of Education For Choice