I support the choice of mothers to give birth where and how ever they want.
However, that doesn’t mean I think every birth choice should be endorsed by the state, either. There is a victim in poorly made birth choices, and that victim is almost always a baby. Babies deserve legislative protection to make the birth providers that facilitate dangerous practices accountable for their actions. Reckless home birth midwives are the ones who profit from spreading the fiction that home birth, water birth, etc is as safe (or safer) than hospital birth. They are the ones with everything to gain and nothing to lose, and that is why legislation should be aimed at controlling their actions rather than the parents who were duped into hiring an incompetent provider. Indeed parents should be able to choose what happens to their bodies and when, but that does not mean it is moral to legally allow a profession to flourish to facilitate poorly made decisions.
Right now any charlatan can call themselves a midwife and boast any safety record they want- there is no way for you to know if they are lying. Even if your midwife is licensed, you would have to trust that any negligence on their part was actually reported to DOPL. There are protocols in place that demand reporting adverse events in hospital births, and there are no such safeguards in home birth or out of hospital births. Home birth midwives who lose babies that could have otherwise been saved are very good at convincing clients (and seemingly, themselves) that the death was not preventable. They don’t have the clinical training to actually know if that is true or not most of the time. It is worth noting that I have never, not once, seen a home birth midwife admit that a baby that died in their care could have lived had they been born in a hospital. This is true even when the baby dies because the time between home and hospital was too long for the baby to endure. They won’t admit wrong and I’ve certainly never seen a home birth midwife that stopped practicing after a preventable death, unless the court ordered them to stop (like with Valerie El Halta and Gloria LeMay).
If your midwife loses her license because she hurt people through negligence, guess what? She can just keep on practicing as an unlicensed midwife. She can change her name if needed, and keep doing what she wants to, with full support from the midwifery community. You would never know.
Vickie Sorensen, a midwife charged with negligently killing a baby, is going to trial.
I have seen people die when I worked in health care. I saw the deep sadness that surrounded those cases, as well as the institutional review systems in place that were meant to analyze what could be done differently next time. Home birth midwifery seems to lack both of those things. Providers who are under review after a death rarely feel persecuted because they know the gravity of the situation and would rather be held responsible. This is what we see from midwives, time after time:
People familiar with the reported facts of the case would find it to be totally preposterous to dismiss these charges. Vickie instead feels entitled to a dismissal on the grounds of “common sense”.
None of this has stopped Vickie from delivering babies, by the way. That is because there is nothing in place to stop anyone from delivering babies in the state, even the serially negligent or incompetent. All they have to do is brand themselves a midwife, and legally they are one. It seems like if a midwife is being charged with reckless endangerment and manslaughter in relation to her practice, she should be monitored or sanctioned somehow until the justice system has determined innocence or guilt. This reminds me very much of the Josh Powell case, there was nothing in place to prevent him from visiting his children despite being the prime suspect in the murder of their mother. That lack of legislation cost lives, just like the lack of legislation of midwives in Utah has cost lives. No one involved with the Direct Entry Midwifery Practice Act is willing to be accountable for the lives lost. Not only do they not feel responsible, they don’t even feel sorry.
Here is the Utah Midwives Associations official statement:
We, the Utah Midwives Organization, are aware of the reported charges against Vickie Sorensen, a midwife in Cedar City, UT. The charges are very serious. We are always concerned when there has been loss of life or potential misconduct of a midwife.
Midwifery care is meant for normal pregnancies proceeding in a normal manner, and there are definitely times when pregnancy is outside the scope of midwifery practice. We cannot comment on this case specifically as it must work its way through the legal process.
We offer our condolences to the family who has suffered the loss of their child.
This statement reminds me a lot of when MANA’s death rate came out. They said that midwifery care is for low risk pregnancies (as to excuse the astronomical rates of death for twins, vbac, and breech births), but did not make any practice recommendations. The Utah Midwives Association has done the same thing- they have said midwifery care is only appropriate for certain pregnancies, but does not have plans to actually change anything legislatively to ensure that midwifery care is only dispensed to women with low risk pregnancies.
It also reminds me of the Valerie El Halta fiasco. When that happened Utah midwives also acted as though this was some kind of isolated incident or a deviation from the normal, but I happen to know that two of the midwifery schools in Utah teach breech, vbac, and twin births to students. I know that the trade magazine for home birth midwifery calls all these conditions “a variation of normal”. I’ve read Ina May Gaskin books that say the exact same thing.
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, and unless UMA lobbies for common sense policies to ensure the safety of moms and babies I will be forced to assume that they find the legislative situation of utah midwives acceptable.
The mention of the family is appreciated. I wonder if their condolences extend to plans to make sure no other family ever has to endure such a tragedy again?