October 29, 2002
~ Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Midwife sent to jail"
Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2002 7:15 PM
Subject: Midwife Freida Miller sent to jail
Freida Miller, a Mennonite midwife from Berlin, OH, was charged on March 1, 2002 with three felonies surrounding the accusation of practicing medicine without a license. The charges were a result of a transport after a planned home birth which Freida attended. The birth went well, but Freida had to use pitocin and methergine to control a postpartum hemorrhage before transporting, and upon arrival at the hospital, told the doctor on call that she had done so. The mother was treated andreleased with no further complications.
Freida was arraigned in Holmes County Courthouse in Millersburg, OH on Monday, March 11th. An estimated 300 supporters attended, in a huge show of love and support for Freida.On May 2, 2002, Freida pleaded guilty to three reduced charges,following the advice of her legal counsel. Her plea bargain included: $3000 fine plus court costs, 200 hours of community service, not have any controlled substances (drugs), developing and implementing a consulting protocol for high-risk pregnancies, consulting with a physician on all high-risk pregnancies, writing a letter of apology to the community to be published in two newspapers, 360 days in jail, all suspended, and probation for 3 years. She was also ordered to cooperatewith ongoing investigations, and thus, was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury on Oct. 2 and asked her where she got the drugs. She declined to answer, and was sent to jail on October 24th. For photos of a prayer vigil that was held at the jail on Oct. 27th, see: http://www.LambzOwn.com/prayer_vigil.htm
Blayne Murray, Ohio midwife
Faith Gibson has put extensive info in Freida's case here:You may write to Freida directly at:Freida Millerc/o Holmes County JailPO Box 50008104 T.R. 574Holmesville, OH 44633We are still hoping for an appeal that will get Freida out of jail.Donations would be greatly appreciated to help pay for Freida'sconsiderable legal costs. Make checks payable to: Benefit Fund for Freida MillerSend to:Benefit Fund for Freida MillerCommercial and Savings BankWalnut Creek OfficePO Box 146Walnut Creek, OH 44687
Here is a recent article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:Midwife sent to jail10/24/02 John HortonPlain Dealer Reporter
Millersburg - Freida Miller held her head high, absorbing prayers and encouragement from those around her. "We love you," someone shouted. "Keeping standing Freida, keep standing," yelled another. Miller smiled as she walked past supporters and friends made during 17 years as a midwife. Jail and became inmate No. 17204. A Holmes County judge jailed Miller yesterday for refusing to tell who gave her the prescription drugs Pitocin and Methergine, which she illegally gave to a mother in her care on Dec. 17 to stop the woman's bleeding after childbirth. Miller, 47, of Berlin Township, was found in contempt of court for not giving the information to the county grand jury.
Miller will stay in the County Jail until she discloses her source or the expiration of the grand jury's term at the end of the year.She could be sent back to jail if she is asked and refuses to give the information to the county's next grand jury. Grand juries serve in four-month increments. "Ms. Miller, you hold the key to your jail cell," Common Pleas Judge Thomas White told her. "You've got a choice here." "You can protect the people who broke the law [by providing the drugs]," White continued, "or you can serve your patients." White gave Miller until 4 p.m. - almost six hours after her morning hearing ended - to report to the County Jail so she could rethink her decision. He told her the grand jury could reconvene immediately if she had a change of heart. Miller never wavered.
"She's not being stubborn nor carrying ill will towards anyone," her lawyer, Dave Knowlton, said. "She's just not willing to put someone who was merely interested in making midwifery safer, someone who is not at this time supplying others [with drugs], through what she has been through." Earlier this year, Miller became the first midwife in Ohio to face criminal charges related to her work. She was indicted in March on felony charges of practicing medicine without a license and selling and possessing dangerous drugs for her use of Pitocin and Methergine on Dec. 17.
Miller pleaded guilty to reduced charges in May as part of an agreement with county prosecutors. Her sentence from White included three years' probation in lieu of jail time, a maximum $3,000 fine and restrictions on her practice. White also ordered Miller to cooperate with any investigations related to her crime. Prosecutors subpoenaed Miller to appear before the grand jury on Oct. 2 and asked her where she got the drugs. Her refusal to answer led to yesterday's hearing. More than 150 of Miller's supporters - many of them from the local Amish and Mennonite communities Miller often serves - attended yesterday'scourt hearing. The majority of them also went to the jail in the afternoon, crowding the building's lobby and lining the outside walkway.Several people held up signs with sayings such as "Find some real criminals - let Freida go." Nicole Oney said she backs Miller's decision, despite the fact she will lose her midwife. Oney, 32, of Akron, is due to deliver her fourth child in two weeks. She's resigned to the fact that Miller probably won't be there to assist with the birth. "If she gives a name, what doctor would ever help a midwife who ratted" on another doctor? asked Oney, who also works as a midwife and trained under Miller. "There is a bigger cause here, and that's protecting people who are trying to make home birthing safer." In Ohio, only qualified medical personnel - which does not include direct entry, or lay, midwives such as Miller - can carry or use medications such as Pitocin and Methergine. The person who supplied Miller could face criminal charges and lose his or her license to practice medicine, officials said.
Many lay midwives in Ohio admit to carrying Pitocin or Methergine for use in emergency situations. Nineteen states - though not Ohio -license, certify, register or document lay midwives and allow them to use such drugs, according to midwifery groups. Lay midwives are not recognized by Ohio law, though there have been unsuccessful attempts to alter that. A proposal is before the Ohio legislature. The judge and prosecutor's treatment of Miller represents an attack on midwifery, said Pam Kolanz, a Geauga County midwife and an officer with the Ohio Midwives Alliance. Kolanz said Miller acted appropriately by giving the drugs and probably saved a woman's life. "This is a sad day for this county and for Ohio," Kolanz said after White found Miller guilty. "I can't believe the people of this county want their tax dollars spent to keep a woman like Freida in jail."
But Assistant County Prosecutor Stephen Knowling said the issue is Miller's refusal to obey the court, not her work as a midwife, for which she is recognized as one of the best and busiest in the state. He accused Miller of "thumbing her nose" at the legal system and said nobody should be above the law. White told Miller he whole-heartedly agreed with Knowling. The judgealso questioned whether Miller even acted in the best interests of her patients, noting that three of the four drug samples seized from her were well past their expiration dates. The Methergine found at Miller's house had expired in April 2000.
"If the law doesn't apply to one of us, it doesn't apply to any of us," White told Miller. "I have no desire to see you incarcerated. There are too many people who depend on your services. But you cannot disobey the law."
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If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading!Blayne MurrayOhio midwifeP.S. On a slightly lighter note, the judge who sent Freida to jail is running, unopposed, for re-election. Concerned citizens are being urged to add "Freida Miller" as a write-in candidate! I hope she's elected!