I have had some serious problems with the Utah Midwifery/Natural Childbirth Community. The most serious problem is the death caused by a negligent midwife in 2013. NOTHING has been done to prevent this from happening again. Valerie El Halta came to Utah to be a midwife because she had killed in other, less lenient states, and found that Utah was the most hospitable to someone like her. It is that way because the direct entry midwifery act does not adequately control the conduct of midwives, and in fact actively encourages negligent midwives to come to Utah. Utah is the only state that still has voluntary licensing. Being an unlicensed midwife means you aren’t accountable to the state at all. Oregon used to be a voluntary licensure state until they too learned the hard way that letting unlicensed midwives legally operate is a recipe for multiple deaths. Something must be done to stop this before someone else dies.
What does the utah midwifery community do about these problems? I’ve already covered the defensive action taken by the Utah Midwives Organization in the wake of a preventable death- they were much more concerned about protecting themselves than preventing another death. What I did not know until recently is that a woman with significant political clout was part of the group. Holly Richardson is running for house distric 57 in Utah, and has been in office previously. What did she have to say about El Halta’s dangerous practices?
Former state Rep. Holly Richardson, a midwife of 14 years, played a key role in getting the Utah Legislature to pass a law in 2005 that set up guidelines for certifying lay midwives. With certification, midwives in Utah may administer a limited number of prescription drugs and perform certain prenatal care duties.
Midwives can still be unlicensed in Utah and legally assist with a delivery, Richardson said. But those births are typically very natural. In the case of the Moab mother, Richardson said, ElHalta should never have attempted to deliver the baby outside a hospital.
“She absolutely acted out of that scope. If these allegations are true, that she was using a vacuum extractor at home, there’s no midwife anywhere in the country that would use a vacuum extractor. It’s totally inappropriate,” she said. “All the midwives I personally have ever worked with or know would have said, ‘I cannot take you as a client. You are too high risk.'”
Holly Richardson talks about this incident like it was an anomaly, that no one could see this coming. Anyone could have seen this coming if they knew El Halta’s history. The scope of practice outlined in the direct entry midwifery practice act is not something that can actually be enforced if a midwife is unlicensed, so it was meaningless. Other midwives, like the vice president of the Utah Midwives Association (Tara Tulley) know that and prefer for unlicensed midwives to be able to take on cases that should never be considered for home birth. Of course, Tara also believes that a firm talking to is a better solution for negligence than legislation, so you can’t expect her to make much sense. She is also an aspiring politician and the owner of a midwifery school in Utah.
Holly Richardson has blood on her hands. She pushed for a bill that allowed this to happen, that made Utah very attractive to a person like Valerie El Halta, who wanted to avoid any accountability for her actions.She is part of an organization that actively opposes legislation that would prevent another tragedy, then refused to take any responsibility for the outcome of her actions. She claims that no one would take these clients on, but there isn’t anyone to regulate who unlicensed midwives can or cannot take. We are supposed to trust a bunch of unaccountable strangers to accurately judge who is a good candidate for homebirth.
If you look on the “issues” page for Holly Richardson, there is nothing to be found about midwives or legislation of midwives despite her role in crafting the law and the deadly result of it in the past year. Instead of working to prevent deaths she gave a seminar to the Utah Midwives Association on how to be influential in local politics, to protect themselves from the hassle of having to be licensed. Its ridiculous- every other sort of birth attendant has to have malpractice insurance and current licensure to prevent deaths (and compensate others when mistakes are made). Midwives do not have to carry insurance and they are complaining about being held accountable at all. These women are a public health menace that absolutely needs to be addressed. It is apparent that they refuse to properly regulate themselves. I’m not content to sit by and wait for someone to have another dead or brain damaged baby at the hands of a ‘professional’ midwife.
I have a lot more that I have found that needs to be exposed regarding Holly Richardson and the Utah Midwives Association, but I need to organize all the evidence I have downloaded and saved. Stay tuned for more in the next couple of days.