Faith Gibson,
Community Midwife

 
 

North American Registry of Midwives

Certified Professional Midwife #96050001

Licensed Midwife, California #041

 

Background Information


I am a Mennonite and a religious practitioner of midwifery, a legally-recognized and lawful category of midwife in my state. However, in 1991 I became the target of a “covert operation” in 1991 by the medical board in my state in an attempt to nullify the religious exemptions clause as it applied to midwives. I accidentally discovered that I was being visited by undercover agents from the medical board, and called their office to ask why and to offer my full co-operation. I spoke to three supervisory-level medical board staff and each one assured me that no one from the board was investigating me. They all declined my offer to directly provide the information they were seeking.

None the less, I was arrested two days later in own home, in the presence of my youngest daughter. After being handcuffed, I was driven 20 miles to a women correctional facility where I spent 10 hours in a solitary holding cell. I had been charged with 5 different "crimes" -- the illegal practice of medicine, the illegal practice of nursing, the illegal practice of midwifery and the illegal practice of nurse-midwifery and was being held on a $50,000 bond. News of my arrest and the 5 misdeameanor charges against me were put out by the DA's office on the AP Wire Servce.

I was prosecuted over the course of 21 months (and 16 court appearance). While I was represented by a reputable attorney, I also found it necessary to do my own legal research on our state medical practice act. My experience lead me to conclude that the best way to defend against the criminal charges of the illegal practice of medicine is to thoroughly understand exactly what the legal practice of medicine is, how it is defined and regulated by the legislature. Equally important was knowing the legislative history of midwifery in general and in my own state in particular. As a result of the information I uncovered, the charges against me were dismissed.


It is my observation that learning about The Law directly from a study of Law was very different than learning about it from the lawyers representing me. Lawyers don’t have the time or incentive to tackle the legal and legislative history of medicine and midwifery in depth. It is we midwives who must do this ourselves. We must understand the legal issues of medical and midwifery legislation as well as we understand the mechanics of birth. The vital interest of childbearing women and the future of independent midwifery depends on our doing so.

With that insight in mind, I continued my research and uncovered a large body of documents detailing the official campaign against midwives undertaken by medical politicians in the early part of this century. These documents were written before women had the right to vote and were never meant to be disclosed publicly. They are a wealth of information supporting our thesis that the current lock-out of midwifery is at best, unwise, and at worse, detrimental to the practical wellbeing of mother and babies. It is a situation that needs our assistance, our prayers and our continuing best efforts to rectify. In the presence of those things, I am confident that God will prevail, and we will see the changes we have so long sought occur naturally, out of the general utility of the midwifery model of care.


 I believe that the basic premise of midwifery as it relates to standard medical care is perhaps best described in a little-known story told about Eleanor Roosevelt during the years that she was First Lady as well as mother of young children. When asked what she put first in her life, her husband (who was President of the United States), or their children, she replied that "together with my husband, we put the children first". I have always appreciated that story as portraying the ideal relationship between physicians and midwives -- that together we put the practical wellbeing of the mother and baby first.

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