Indiana midwife prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license
Filed under: Your Pregnancy
There's an interesting article in today's New York Times that tells the story of Jennifer Williams, a midwife being prosecuted in Indiana for practicing medicine without a license. She faces up to 8 years in prison under that charge. The article brings up her story in the larger context of the propriety of lay midwives operating out of people's homes instead of hospitals. One local prosecutor compares unlicensed midwives to unlicensed truck drivers: "He may be doing an awfully fine job of driving his truck, but the state requires him to go through training, have his license and be subject to review."
Experts estimate that there are about 3,000 unlicensed midwives operating throughout the country. A third of those have been certified by the North American Registry of Midwives, a private entity whose evaluations are recognized in some 20 states. In some states, like Indiana, only doctors and nurses may legally deliver babies. Peggy Welch, a Democratic Indiana state representative from Bloomington, has introduced legislation in Indiana to make lay midwifery legal and regulated. "It is not illegal to have a home birth," Welch said. "But doctors and nurses are choosing not to do home births. I don't want to have a midwife hesitate to take a woman to the hospital because she is afraid she will be arrested."
What good, if any, does prosecuting unlicensed midwives do if women are going to continue to demand at-home births, and doctors and nurses refuse to meet those demands?