midwives respond to the newest preventable death

There are many anonymous donors on  Vickie Sorensen’s gofundme page, but there are some midwives that aren’t afraid to lend their name to the ’cause’ of supporting a midwife who allegedly lied to EMTs about her patients condition as she almost died from blood loss, and they are:

Darby Partner

Jessica Weed*

Melissa Valet

Susan DiNatale

Katharine McCall*

Juanita Michelle Gober

Marcene Rebeck*

*The names with asterisks are midwives who have been prosecuted in different states for negligence of various sorts. I’ve linked to the cases on their names, you can click to see for yourself that none of them were exonerated.

Most of the other donors are former patients, other birth workers (like birth photographers, doulas, etc), and anonymous donors.  They have managed to post Vickie Sorensen’s bail, and so they raised the gofundme goal to 80,000 (likely for her legal fees).

So far I haven’t seen any midwives condemn the laws that allowed this to happen. I’ve only seen them try to put a good face on this and pretend that most midwives follow a reasonable standard of practice, when I’ve pointed out before that most do not.  The norm is midwives making up their own rules and their patients remain blissfully unaware of it unless a problem arises. Most Utah midwives, including midwifery school owners, are against vaccinations and are far outside their scope of practice by discouraging vaccination in their patients.

The salt lake tribune is the biggest news outlet reporting on the charges against Vickie Sorensen, and their comments section has a few midwives willing to put their name on the line to pretend that legislation would solve nothing in these situations. Tara Workman Tulley, political candidate for city council in Springville, Utah, was among the most vocal in support of keeping things exactly the same as they are now.

tara tulley most midwives would not

First she starts with a statement that “most” midwives would transfer this case, and that this is not considered “normal practice” for midwifery care. In reality there is no standard for midwifery care, so this statement is entirely based on her personal opinion of what other midwives would do, rather than any actual data.  I get the feeling that Tara will say anything so long as it helps the “cause” of keeping midwives unlegislated.

What is particularly alarming is that she only thinks “most” midwives would transfer, rather than “virtually everyone” or “all competent midwives”. This should be alarming to the general public- Tara Tulley runs a midwifery school and trains other midwives.  Tara is vice president of the Utah Midwives Association. She started a political committee to respond to the last death caused by negligence, and she clearly felt that it was persecution. Her acceptance of this conduct is deplorable in light of that fact.

tara tulley against licensing

In subsequent posts, Tara Tulley pretends that Vickie Sorensen is worse off as an unlicensed midwife, and therefore not licensing midwives is the rational thing to do. It would be a good argument except for the fact that Vickie Sorensen and other Utah midwives only feel comfortable taking high risk pregnancies like twins, premature, vbac, etc because they have legally done so before, or because they know there is no legal consequence for taking these cases in and of themselves. The legal consequences only emerge when there is clear negligence, like in this case (refusing to call an ambulance, interfering when they did show up, etc). Taking on births that should never reasonably be attended at home is not a legal problem in the state of utah unless the midwife does something else to merit an arrest. It doesn’t matter if the baby lives or dies. Licensing of midwives would prevent this, it would punish them for taking on cases they should not *regardless* of outcome, and insuring of midwives would make sure that even negligent midwives who break the rules would be able to pay for the damages that they have caused. Tara Tulley is against any legislation of midwives.

tara tulley voluntary standards

At this point Tara Tulley acknowledged that the standards that are available in direct entry midwifery are entirely voluntary. People can follow them, or not. Throughout the comments on the salt lake tribune she pretends that this is the norm in other medical professions. She conflates other medical professionals breaking the rules as a case for foregoing standards, when in fact it evidences the opposite case. Punishment for deviation from protocols should be swift and harsh as to discourage such behavior. She has stated before that she prefers a mentorship style program to actual legislation aimed at protecting people from clearly negligent midwives.

tara supports dangerous midwives cropped

This is her (ridiculous) solution to the problem- mentorship. She calls it ‘responsible inclusion’, but what I call it is using pregnant women as guinea pigs, and then being unable to pay when you damage them. If you don’t know what you are doing, you shouldn’t practice midwifery. Period. No matter how skilled you are you need insurance in case you hurt someone on accident. Its become clear to me that virtually none of the midwives in Utah know what they are doing, and that is probably because there is no central body governing evidence based practices. There desperately needs to be a change in the situation of direct entry midwifery in utah.

I’ve contacted the utah midwive’s association for an official statement on the Vickie Sorensen situation. I will update this post if and when they respond (or fail to).


remember, this meeting IS being recorded (part 2)

This part two of the review of the meeting by utah midwives that occurred in response to a preventable death caused by a serially negligent midwife (Valerie El Halta). Part one can be found here.  Keep in mind that these women are all keenly aware that these remarks are being recorded, so they believe that their reaction to a preventable death in their profession is normal and acceptable. Summaries of the meeting content are in bold, my commentary is in normal text.

A woman discusses the need for legal assistance for midwives. 

Another woman said that UMO needs a legislative agenda.

A  student midwife named Catherine  discusses possible legislation in California to make it easier for direct entry midwives to order labs, use medications, and attend births without any medical oversight. She shares how other midwives can help the effort to make life easier for direct entry midwives. Catherine wants to remove physician/nurse supervision of midwives and carrying of medications and oxygen. She notes that the problem is that physicians put their own malpractice insurance at risk by supervising these sorts of births and birth centers. 

Insurance companies are not caring corporations, they don’t take on policies or reject them on the basis of politics. They crunch numbers, do the math, and conclude if covering a practitioner it is an acceptable risk to insure. They have declined to insure these birth attendants, even with physician supervision. That should be a red flag for anyone paying attention. Midwives act as though there is a vast conspiracy instead of the simple fact that out of hospital birth increases the rate of perinatal death and injury, and this is especially true when non-nurse midwives are the attendant.

Around 37 minutes a midwife named Dyanna Gordon says “One of the big problems is that, we are on our way to mandatory licensure.You know, we haven’t played nice with each other for years.And if we don’t do something quickly, we are not going to have many options left available to us. 

We left things how they were, you know, and I believe that there are very few midwives in Utah who believe in mandatory licensure. I think most of us are very happy, with where things are, with licensure being optional. But that’s not where we are going to be in a year or two, if things don’t change. 

Those who are licensed are managed by DOPL. If there are problems in practiced, theres peer review required,all of that was established with saying ‘okay, the unlicensed midwives will govern themselves, they will work out their own issues,they will have their own peer review, and things will be taken care of accordingly.’ But the truth of it is that its not happening, and it is affecting everybody.”

DOPL stands for the Department of Professional Licensing. Diana Gordon understand the problem- there is no real oversight of unlicensed midwives, they can do whatever they want. It is obvious that a midwife could seriously injure or even kill someone by practicing dangerously. Diana is right that it is ‘affecting everybody’, but not in the way she means. She means it is affecting other midwives. I mean that it is affecting the parents who had to bury their child, other community members who were supporting them through that time, the investigator who had to go through the details of it, reporters, and everyone else who heard of the story and felt heart broken. How do I know Diana has no consideration for the community or the dead baby? Her solutions are all about keeping the situation the way it is instead of changing it to prevent the next tragedy.

There is discussion about how to organize, logistics, etc.

The details are boring and I am continually astounded at the lack of technical knowledge that the midwives display during the meeting, such as the constant echoing and the lack of editing for the first 6 minutes of murmurs. I was also surprised by their inability to actually make any progress in making a decision. They take two hours to decide if to have a meeting and when and what to call themselves. Yeesh.

Tara Tulley talks about legal fears because a member of the old organization’s computer was seized during a search warrant (Vickie Sorensen).

The professional organization’s computer was seized by police during a raid of some sort. Needless to say, this is not a problem that real medicial professionals are likely to have. The Utah Medical Association certainly doesn’t have this problem.

I cannot find any information on what happened to this computer, or why it was taken, except on the laughable “our sisters in chains” website, which claims it was all persecution (as you will note, basically ever midwife arrest is unfair in the owner of OSIC’s opinion). They want to raise money for criminally negligent midwives, which I have learned is the norm in this line of work. Comparing their story of what Jessica Weed of New Mexico did and the actual news accounts makes this website completely unreliable in my mind (scroll down to New Mexico or control+f for Jessica Weed). Who knows what Vickie Sorensen was accused of or why her computer was seized? If anyone finds any information about this raid please let me know in the comments.

Tara Tulley asks Suzanne Smith if there are legal concerns with continuing with the new organization. She says that she would rather move onto a new organization because there is no real hope of getting the seized computer back so they have to start again from scratch. She doesn’t feel that the activity of any member does not taint the organization so it would be okay to be the utah midwives association. 

Well, we were all aware that Suzanne Smith was okay with shady behavior from other midwives, due to her previous actions (ignoring complaints of forced vaginal exams and inappropriate sexual touching at her clinic, and subsequently recommending that same midwife to new patients), but now we have her saying it out loud. She doesn’t care if a midwife is under investigation for a death or anything else, it just matters that they are there to protect their collective income stream.

One of the midwives apologizes to Valerie [the midwife that killed a baby], saying “I’m sorry that you had to be the catalyst for this, but we have to move forward. What do we need to do today to move forward?”

Why are they sorry to valerie? Why aren’t they sorry to the parents who had to bury their child?  Direct entry midwives consistently display a depraved indifference to the well being of babies and mothers.

Another midwife says “I know there are hurt feelings over this or that, but the truth is we will be digging our own graves. I hate to be the negative nelly about that, but I think our main push needs to be legislative in nature, so we can keep the status quo.”

The status quo allowed a clearly dangerous woman with a pattern of negligence to legally practice midwifery in the state of Utah. The status quo allowed a baby to die for no real reason. How is no one at the meeting able to see how horrible this looks to normal people, who generally have a reaction of total devastation when they think they could have contributed to the death of another human being? These women directly contribute to whoever ends up dying or being damaged next, and they could not care less about it.

The same woman continues on about how important it is that ‘we can all practice midwifery in the way we believe.”

People can “believe” whatever they want to about birth, it does not merit an endorsement by the state by letting those practices continue legally.

It is also worth noting that this framing of midwifery practice from the meeting, where being a midwife is about practicing in whatever way you believe to be best… is very different than the way they presented midwifery to legislators when they originally passed the direct entry midwifery act. Previously, utah midwives made it seem that there was one responsible way to practice midwifery, the way where you only accept low risk women and transport at the first sign of trouble. They claimed it was an evidence based and safe practice. I doubt that law makers care at all about what midwives believe to be true about safety (especially when they believe clearly dangerous things, which I will demonstrate in a later post), they want facts. Midwives OWE the public evidence based practices because they have the potential to be a public health menace.

Suzanne smith says- what im sensing, from the way the conversation has gone, is that everyone is very concerned about how the Valerie situation, and possibly to some extent, the Vickie Sorensen situation, may affect us all legally. So it seems to me like the big motivating factor for everyone to suddenly be interested now, is the possibility of incoming legislation. I think that’s very reasonable (chuckles), I think that’s a very real possibility, that we will face hostile legislation as a result of this, and I just want to give a little reality check to the meeting.

She notes that they may have as little as 90 days to formulate a response because of legislative session deadlines.

Again, absolutely no concern about what to do to prevent the next death, just information on how to tell politicians that the legal situation of midwives is totally acceptable even though it quite literally cost a child their life.

Political strategy is discussed. 

Suzanne Smith- “there are a lot of people in government who do not understand why our licensure is voluntary. They just think that’s the weirdest thing ever, and don’t think its right. “

That’s because it isn’t right. The proof is in the tiny grave that none of these women bothered to think about when they realized they might make less money if the public got wise to what midwifery is really about.

Tara Tulley interjects to discuss how Oregon is currently fighting against legislation to make licensing voluntary, and that at the time of the recording Oregon and Utah were the only two voluntary licensing states. She notes that if midwives there lose voluntary licensure (which they ultimately did) then it puts Utah midwives in a position that is difficult to defend.

Of course Tara doesn’t mention WHY Oregon was changing its laws- it is because of a string of deaths caused by negligence, just like the one in Utah (and the future deaths that will no doubt occur if nothing changes). The bottom line is that this type of legislation has been tested in Oregon. It was tried, and it failed spectacularly. Do Utahans want to wait for more deaths before taking action? What possible reason is there that things would turn out differently here?

Tara tulley- “I don’t know if Holly Richardson can join the committee, but I know that she will be involved and will help us.

Tara notes that Holly has been consulting with her about this issue already.

Republican Holly Richardson, who was instrumental in getting the original direct entry midwifery act passed in Utah, is consulting with the midwives about what to do about their bad PR, now that the logical conclusion of the state’s policy has become apparent. She unfortunately couldn’t attend the meeting, so she was unable to demonstrate her cold indifference to the grieving family along with the other Utah midwives in attendance.

Around 1:30 into the meeting Tara Tulley says “… And Jennee Allan- and you’ve been working with Valerie, right? As well. Oh, I’m sorry, if you didn’t want that stated. *laughs*”

That is the opposite of funny. That is the opposite of acceptable response to a tragedy. It shows that these midwives either worked to help El Halta or they found it acceptable that someone in their ranks would help. Here is a brief reminder of what a monster El Halta is:

“Valerie … wasted, like, a whole hour,” Malloy said.”She played god. She had this ego: She was the guru of birth. Valerie knew there was a problem, and she withheld the information from us.” – A mother whose child died under the ‘care’ of el halta

Without warning, she “stripped the membranes” — a procedure to separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus and stimulate labor, Rose said.

“It was rough and painful, and she brings her bloody glove back out. ‘I figured I’d just help you along,’ she said. That was her attitude: Auntie Val knows best.”

“It was the single most painful thing Val did during my birth,” Rose said. “She had both of her hands inside me. I was yelling at her to get them out, but she refused because she was helping. If someone has two hands in you, and you’re telling them no, and they don’t stop — that’s why I call it a rape.” -the mother of the child who died under valerie el haltas care

El Halta arrived at the mother’s home Aug. 17 and inserted a vaginal pill that she said she received from her son, a pharmacist. El Halta had “boasted … that she used real ‘medicine,’ not herbal medicine.” Investigators later concluded the pill was Cytotec, a drug used to induce labor despite warnings that it can cause uterine rupture and other complications. The mother received three more doses.

The next evening, El Halta “seemed to have become anxious that the mother’s labor was not progressing.” She allegedly performed a painful vaginal exam on the mother, saying, “Let’s get this show on the road.” El Halta explained she was “breaking scar tissue” and “just moving things along.”

A few hours later, El Halta checked the baby’s heartbeat, which slowed and sped up again. As the mother began to vomit and have diarrhea, El Halta became “agitated and snapped at the mother and her husband.” The mother pushed for about an hour, but the baby slipped back into the birth canal. No heartbeat could be heard.”- the case report for the recent Utah death

THIS is the woman that these midwives are defending. All the talk about patient autonomy, about low risk women, about safe practices, it all disappears when they get in a room together and decide that their sisterhood is more important than…anything else really. Its even more important than other people’s lives and safety.

Tara  Tulley remarked “This feels good to me. I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot today. I’d like to thank Angie Blackett, Cathy O’Bryant, Erin Elberdean (sp?),  for all the work she has done. I think sometimes it takes a bit of a scare to get people motivated *chuckles*” 

A baby dying isn’t “a bit of a scare” to the parents, or anyone who isn’t a total sociopath.

Around 1:53 someone asked “What should we call this meeting?”  Tara replied “Call it the “oh crap” meeting!” 

You can there hear many midwives laughing. 

Laughing. About this. The death happened on August 17th. This meeting took place a little more than 4 weeks later.

Its worth noting that another prominent member of the community, Kristi Ridd Young, was also in attendance, but felt the need to say nothing. I find it deplorable that no one mentioned the baby or the family at ALL during the meeting. No one discussed what they could do to help that family or help prevent the next tragedy. The entire meeting was about protecting their own cause instead of what their cause had cost a family.

remember, this meeting IS being recorded (part one…)

I found the recording of a meeting of utah midwives after the preventable death of a baby at the hands of a serially negligent midwife (Valerie El Halta). This post aims to summarize the meeting (click this link to listen). I have it saved on my computer if they decide to delete it. Descriptions of the meeting are in bold, my commentary is in normal text.

The first 6 minutes is murmuring and obviously not the meeting itself. You can skip it.

Tara Tulley leads the meeting with a statement, and stresses repeatedly that the meeting is being recorded and the media might get their hands on the tape because it will be posted online later. She starts the meeting by talking about how she doesn’t want to discuss the charges against the midwife, just how she wants to gear up the community to prevent any legislation from restricting a midwifes ‘freedom’ to practice without any licensing.

When a preventable death occurs in a hospital, there is usually a case review where people get together to try and figure out what they can do to prevent it next time. Here we see midwives behaving as the opposite of medical professionals, as these midwives are only seeking to defend their income source. This has nothing to do with the freedom to birth at home, because women are free to do that in many other states that require licenses for midwives (meaning every state except for Utah). It is about the freedom of midwives (sometimes self proclaimed, under qualified midwives) to conduct births however they please without having to face any consequences for the outcomes.

Around 13 minutes Tara says she wants a midwives organization to exist so that they can ‘develop standards of practice’. She wants to be able to say “look we are organized and have a standard of practice” when legislators come after midwives the next time a baby dies or is permanently injured.

The unstated assumption is that all these midwives know that another midwife is going to kill someone negligently, so they need to be prepared when it happens again. Tara stresses how important this is to unlicensed midwives, how important it is to ‘keep that option open’. I’m sure reckless people would very much enjoy keeping an option open that would let them do whatever they want to.

Around 17 minutes in she discusses ‘relative conformity’, meaning that they need a standard that most people can agree on but that midwives don’t actually have to adhere to 100%.

This is the opposite of an effective standard of practice.

An un-named midwife comes up and says “the frustration is that when one midwife chooses to do something, we all pay for it.” She discusses being upset at midwives who have bad outcomes. “How do we open our hearts and say: I do love you, even though you are hurting us.”

I cannot understand why anyone would need to profess their love for Teresa El Halta just because they work in the same profession. The woman is a reckless killer who has wronged countless people over the years. She has a pattern of using interventions that she is completely unqualified and untrained in, as well as doing forced vaginal exams and procedures all while taking on extremely high risk cases. Then she moves to a new state when she gets in trouble.

Tara agrees and  with the “open our hearts” comment, then talks about how important it is to manage public perspective on “events like these” (meaning the needless death of an innocent baby).

They are clearly more worried about appearing a certain way that actually preventing future deaths. El Halta would not have been able to become a licensed midwive in Utah because she had her NARM certification revoked. That can only happen if two separate people manage to file complaints against a single midwife. NARM gives grieving mothers the run around, so it is really a testament to how terrible she was at her job that NARM formally revoked her midwifery certificate.

These midwives, who are supposed to uphold the well being of infants and pregnant women, don’t want anyone to hold them legally accountable for what they choose to do. They want the appearance of accountability by having their own group, but they are not capable of meaningful legal action. Don’t be fooled by any by laws or standards of practice that are demonstrated by UMO- they don’t mean anything when there isn’t a real consequence for violating the rules. Getting kicked out of UMO would not make someone unable to practice in the state, so what good would it do for patients? None, really. It benefits midwives exclusively.

This entire meeting I just want to scream:


No normal person reacts to the death of a baby this way. I don’t know what is wrong with these women, but they should not be tasked with governing themselves. Stay tuned for part two later this week.

Utah Midwives Organization Exposed

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.


why are Utah midwives learning breech births?

found this photo awhile back, but didn’t have time to write about it until now.

breechesThis is from the community school of midwifery.

Here is utah state code regarding breeches:

(2) Mandatory Consultation:

(a) incomplete miscarriage after 14.0 weeks gestation;

(b) failure to deliver by 42.0 weeks gestation;

(c) a fetus in the breech position after 36.0 weeks gestation;


Direct entry midwives should not be attending these births, ever. Oregon learned the hard way that direct entry midwives aren’t equipped to deal with breeches. They have recently changed their legislation to reflect the problems caused by direct entry midwives in out of hospital birth.

The owner of the community school of midwifery (Tara Tulley) believes that the legislation against doing breeches at home is a problem:

The problems I see with having a state with two levels of direct-entry midwives are that midwives are less united. When there is a proposed change to the rules or statute both licensed and unlicensed midwives are more willing to compromise. There is an out. We saw this a few years ago when we compromised to not let licensed midwives to any twins, breeches, or deliveries before 36 weeks. The licensed midwives felt like they were safer to compromise, and then decided it was a mistake. The unlicensed midwives stayed unlicensed because they could maintain their rights in those situations. So now we have a larger problem. There are very qualified midwives to are licensed, who know by many years of experience and education how to appropriately screen when these women present, how to monitor, and when to transfer out of care who are not able to attend them.

According to her, the problem isn’t the danger inherent in taking on high risk cases, its that midwives are less united. The problem isn’t that patients are getting false information about the safety of out of hospital birth for breeches and twins, its that a dangerous midwife might not feel comfortable calling another midwife for help (instead of EMS).

One thing that I agree with Tara Tulley about is that unlicensed midwives cannot access the drugs that licensed midwives can, but they are the only ones who can take these high risk cases legally. This situation makes zero sense. Of course she believes the answer is probably less accountability, while I think licensing should be absolutely mandatory, with harsh consequences for people who break the law.

Its no wonder she feels comfortable teaching breeches at her school. After all, Tara Tulley started practicing when midwifery was illegal in Utah, so she has no problem circumventing the law to serve her natural child birth ideology.

The bottom line is that these practices are dangerous. Tara Tulley knows that, but thinks she has a better solution than legislation:

Yes, there are some scary ways of practicing. But I know if I have a relationship of trust with someone I am both more willing to go to them for help, and to also accept and consider feedback. I believe I am a good midwife, but my seasoning was not innate! I had to learn out to communicate. I had to learn that scaring my clients with the interventions of hospitals was not helpful when they became necessary.

She calls this solution “responsible inclusion”, as if there is anything responsible about accepting people who practice outside their actually competency as a midwife. Having another midwife to call isn’t worth anything in countless dangerous situations.

Tara Tulley isn’t an anomaly, she mirrors the position of MANA, the professional organization for midwives in north america. They have declined to define a ‘low risk’ birth as well, feeling more comfortable to leave it up to individual midwives to decide.

She talks like these choices have no real outcome, that no one will grieve a child or mother or their functionality when mistakes are made by midwives with “scary” practices. Making a choice because you feel it is safe, rather than having objective information to demonstrate its safety, is extremely negligent and should not be encouraged in any profession.  She talks so much about how its wrong to make fun of midwives who are young or stupid and have ridiculous ideas about birth, so you can imagine how she would feel about actually trying to stop women like that from practicing. Instead of deriding dangerous practices, Tara Tulley expresses that she thinks that serially negligent midwives should be wooed into safer practices by having trusting relationships with older midwives:


Regardless of how another midwife practices, or what her training is, if she is unlicensed then she does have the right to practice, and the parents have the right to choose her. If it is legal, then ostracising her will not make it illegal for her to practice, and she may decide that asking for help is too risky. She may be angry, and may not know how to forge relationships in hospitals. Perhaps, part of the reason the obstetrician was angry when you came in with your responsible well-charted transport. Perhaps he had just taken the client of a newer midwife, who transported, but did not know how to communicate in a way that was effective. Perhaps she offended him because she didn’t know how to see things objectively, not react to emotions, and validate and support him in order to foster a working relationship.


If a midwife decides that asking for help when a patient needs it is too risky for the midwife, and doesn’t call because of that, she has extremely poor judgment and should not be a midwife. Safety should overcome pride without any hesitation.

She lists several scenarios where midwives, who are tasked with delivering a baby and ensuring the safety and health of the child and mother, lack basic skills needed to perform their job adequately. The obvious answer to that problem is to change the law so that there are serious penalties for being a threat to public health and safety by endangering the lives of women and infants. Its deplorable. Midwives have always resisted common sense laws to protect consumers because they don’t want to be held accountable for their behavior.

The hardest lesson I had to learn about natural child birth is this: midwives don’t care about you. They don’t. They sell their services on acting as though they care, but when they are talking among themselves, or dealing with a death caused by someone in their community, their true colors come out. They couldn’t care less. Death is natural so its okay to them. That is the only way I can explain the blase and self-centered attitude of the midwifery community when it comes to safety of mothers and infants.


The sorry state of midwifery in utah

Midwives in Utah are  unaccountable for their actions. There is a deceptively long list of requirements for licensed direct entry midwives in the state of utah, but the law has no real teeth in it. Midwives who choose not to be licensed are not subject to any of the requirements. You can just declare yourself to be a midwife and practice, if you so please. You can declare yourself a licensed midwife in utah and face no consequences for misrepresenting your credentials (I know because this happened to me, I went to a midwife who claimed to be licensed and was not, and every avenue I tried to address the problem with told me they could not reprimand her).

Is it any wonder that women like Valerie El Halta come to utah to practice after being banned from several other states? . When Valerie ran into legal trouble in multiple states, she finally landed in Utah. She abused a woman and negligently caused the death of a baby by using drugs and a vacuum extractor. She was not qualified to use the drugs or the vacuum extractor. Here is a horrifying quote from the mother about valeries conduct:

“It was the single most painful thing Val did during my birth,” Rose said. “She had both of her hands inside me. I was yelling at her to get them out, but she refused because she was helping. If someone has two hands in you, and you’re telling them no, and they don’t stop — that’s why I call it a rape.”

This is a disgusting way to treat people. What is worse is how the midwifery community in utah decided that it was persecution for an investigation to occur. Simply investigating after a perinatal death is considered inappropriate, according to utah midwives. They seem to believe that any level of accountability for patient outcomes is too much. Utah midwives formed a watchdog committee in response to the investigations. There is no sympathy on the part of midwives for the parents of the child who died needlessly. The people hurt by the midwife are a non-issue in the minds of most Utah midwives, apparently.

You would think that a charge of negligent homicide would result in some real penalties for El Halta, who had caused other deaths by negligence in the past, but she was not sentenced to any prison time. Her sentence was probation and a court order to not attend any births. People who carefully read the salt lake tribune article about El Halta’s history will note that being charged with crimes in the past has never deterred valerie from attending risky homebirths, and it is unlikely that she will stop in the future.

Valerie El Halta has also been sued for a previous infant death in a different state, but the fact that she did not carry malpractice insurance means the debt is basically un-collectable. Utah midwives are not required to carry malpractice insurance, so it is hard to get an attorney to assist when utah midwives hurt a pregnant mother or their baby. There is no safe guard in place to prevent a tragedy of this sort from happening again. I find this totally unacceptable. Birth attendants (of any type) are bound to make mistakes a certain percentage of the time, and should be accountable for the outcome. They should pay for any damage caused by their mistakes.

Midwives in utah are also not bound by HIPAA. They have no legal obligation to keep your private health information confidential. Better Birth of Utah has resorted to talking about the (alleged) mental health status of past patients when negative reviews  were posted to the internet, breaking the contract that states they will not discuss health information with anyone not involved with patient care  (unless legally obligated to do so).

There are midwife-run review boards like utah midwives organization or NARM, but they also do not have any real power to punish midwives. Valerie El Halta had her credentials revoked by NARM several years before the negligence in Utah, it did not prevent her from legally practicing in Utah.

The other thing I found out too late was that the health department does not regulate one room birthing centers. You can run a birthing center however you want to as long as you restrict it to one room. This is a major loophole in the law that could cause many problems for utahans who assume that their birth center is up to code- when there isn’t one. I know that when I used Better Birth LLC as my birthing center I was perplexed at the fact that they had a washer/dryer combination in the SLC birth suites (“bellanatal birth suites). I knew from my time working in hospitals that medical linens usually have to cook at a high temperature in industrial laundry services in order to kill transferable diseases. Better Birth was under no such obligations to sanitize the sheets, blankets, towels, etc used at the birthing center. I am sure there are other examples of why it is a bad idea to let lay midwives self-regulate their birth centers.

If a midwife harms you or your baby your only real recourse is court, and if you can’t find an attorney willing to represent you then you have to try your luck at small claims. There is a maximum of 10,000$ that can be rewarded in small claims (about double what most states offer), but it doesn’t even begin to compensate someone who lost their life, child, or functioning at the hands of a midwife.

I doubt that most Utahans find this state of affairs acceptable. Utahans generally place a high value on children and family, and these regulations undermine the safety of infants and pregnant mothers. Mistakes in the world of prenatal care and childbirth carry a high price for the parents and children affected. I believe that people who manage labor and prenatal care should be held accountable for their actions.