BLOOMINGTON, Ind., March 29 — Angela Hendrix-Petry gave birth to her daughter Chloe by candlelight in her bedroom here in the early morning of March 12, with a thunderstorm raging outside and her family and midwife huddled around her.
It was the most cozy, lovely, lush experience,Ms. Hendrix-Petry said.
According to Indiana law, though, the midwife who assisted Ms. Hendrix-Petry, Mary Helen Ayres, committed a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison. Ms. Ayres was, according to the state, practicing medicine and midwifery without a license.
Doctors, legislators and prosecutors in Indiana and in the nine other states with laws prohibiting midwifery by people other than doctors and nurses say home births supervised by midwives present grave and unacceptable medical risks. Nurse-midwives in Indiana are permitted to deliver babies at home, but most work in hospitals.
Midwives see it differently. They say the ability of women to choose to give birth at home is under assault from a medical establishment dominated by men who, for reasons of money and status, resent a centuries-old tradition that long ago anticipated the concerns of modern feminism.
Chloe Hendrix-Petry’s birth has not given rise to criminal charges, but 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.
… According to an affidavit filed by Rick Isgrigg, an investigator with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, Ms. Williams conducted a dozen prenatal examinations on Oliver’s mother, Kristi Jo Meredith; monitored the fetal heart rate during labor; made a surgical incision known as an episiotomy when she detected fetal distress; performed frantic CPR on the baby when he emerged; and sutured the incision afterward. Ms. Williams charged the Merediths $1,550.
… Oliver Meredith’s parents have showed little enthusiasm for the prosecution, people on both sides of the case said.It’s not like they’re knocking down our doors to pursue the matter,Mr. Apsley acknowledged.They just want to get on with their lives.
Here we have state prosecutors barging in punish a woman for providing responsible medical care to a willing patient who apparently isn’t interested in prosecuting her for anything in connection with a stillbirth which not even the state or the AMA alleges to have been her fault. Why? Because she dared to help willing mothers give birth without a permission slip from the state government or the doctors’ guild, and because it’s apparently a compelling state interest for guild rules to be enforced and all births to be properly institutionalized. If the state doesn’t protect women from freely deciding to have a cozy, lovely, lush experience giving birth at home, with the help of a midwife whom they’ve selected, after nine months of due consideration, who will?
But wait, there’s more. Here’s the Loyal Opposition, with their solution to the problem:
Peggy Welch, a Democratic state representative in Bloomington, has introduced legislation in Indiana to recognize and regulate lay midwives. She said the issue boiled down to choice and safety.
… because I guess the problem here is that the government’s enforcement of Birth Guild rules doesn’t extend far enough. Without the government to tell women whom they can choose to help them give birth, or to lock up midwives who haven’t been duly approved in triplicate by the proper authorities, how in the world would we protect choice and safety?
Bureaucratic rationality, n.: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may have something good in their life without your authorization.