Monday, April 03, 2006

Midwife Prosecution

The New York Times has a story today, "Prosecution of Midwife Casts Light on Home Births," which addresses the prosecution of lay/direct-entry midwives for practicing without a license. For example, "a prosecution against another midwife, Jennifer Williams, is pending in Shelbyville, Ind. It was prompted by the death of a baby named Oliver Meredith that Ms. Williams delivered in June. But she is not charged with causing or contributing to Oliver's death. Instead, to hear the county prosecutor tell it, the case against Ms. Williams is not unlike one against a trucker caught driving without a license."

One Indiana representative, Peggy Welch, has introduced legislation to allow the state to recognize and regulate lay midwives. According to the story, "She said the issue boiled down to choice and safety. 'It is not illegal to have a home birth,' Ms. Welch said, noting that about 1,000 Indiana families had their children at home each year. 'But doctors and nurses are choosing not to do home births.' The current law, Ms. Welch said, drives midwives underground. 'I don't want to have a midwife hesitate to take a woman to the hospital because she is afraid she will be arrested,' she said." The story explains that in Indiana, practicing medicine and midwifery without a license is a felony, punishable by up to 8 years in prison.

This section of the Midwifery in Minnesota website provide a good short summary of the types of midwives and the type of training each group receives. This chart outlines the regulations and status of direct-entry midwives in each state (provided by the Midwives Alliance of North America). Finally, here's a list of web resources with online directories of various types of midwives (from Citizens for Midwifery).

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MeSH Tags: Home Childbirth; Midwifery


Blogger Kat Coble said...

Hmmm. Interesting, especially since last I knew, a good number of the midwives in Indiana are in Amish communities. They would NEVER even think of getting licensed by the State.

Then again, an Amish family would never seek to prosecute a midwife who assisted in a birth that ended in the death of the baby or the mother. So unless the police and court system decide to stop their policy of looking-the-other-way when the plain folk do something, it might not be that big an issue.

But I see it creating problems, nonetheless. If I were an unlicensed English midwife, I'd perhaps be pretty ticked off at being prosecuted when an unlicensed Amish midwife was left alone.

I think this would make an interesting book. *wheels whirring in brain*.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

That's an interesting point about the Amish; I'm not very familiar with their birth practices and attitudes. If you decide to go write a book on Amish midwives, I'm totally up for a road trip. :)

10:05 AM  
Blogger The Mommy Blawger said...

Even in states where the practice of direct-entry midwifery is definitly illegal, states are extremely hesitant to prosecute Amish midwives and those who practice exculsively in the Amish community. You are getting into a lot of freedom of religion issues there.

2:17 AM  

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