Winter is still here in Connecticut. I drove to Capitol Avenue to formally hear the opinion of the Connecticut Medical Examining Board regarding midwifery, specifically Direct Entry and Certified Practicing Midwives. It began with the lot of us being told the doors were being opened for us to to come in but we need to keep the noisemakers, meaning the children, out. Dennis O’Neill, MD, Chairman of the Board explained the acoustics were so poor in the Conference Room they could barely hear each other let alone the audience who might speak.
At this point in time we know only that the charges stemmed from a transport case, a transport that was timely and resulted in a positive outcome.
It has been reported by members in the midwifery community that the case was not the result of poor care, a complaint from the parents, nor was there a maternal or fetal death. Although I never caught the actual root of this case I did meet Donna Vedam who had been through this procedure before and realized her case was why we found ourselves here again. In her case, parents who were more than overjoyed with their birth experience wrote their insurance company asking them to consider covering homebirth in the future and wrote how homebirth saved money, reduced the use of interventions, and improved birth outcomes. Someone somewhere in the insurance company read the letter and thought this must be illegal! They forwarded the letter to the State to look into and Donna was accused of practicing medicine. That charge was dismissed as it was determined that she was practicing midwifery and midwifery is not medicine.
Since that precedence already exists, the Board has to step up the charge and go for practicing nurse midwifery without a license. It is a step toward regulating midwifery in Connecticut — and make no mistake about it — a step towards eliminating the “problem” of midwives enticing women away from OB income, and opening the window to the proven dangers of many routine interventions.
In less than four minutes total the issue was brought up and voted on. Dr. O’Neill relayed that the case was dragged out over 21 months with only 8 actual days of hearing, after which there was no explanation as to why it took this long to finally bring the motion to a vote. Dr. O’Neill simply said “it eventually lay around held up in some office somewhere …(until now).” As for this writer, what the summation hints to me is that the testimony presented during those 8 days took a lot of time and energy for the medical community to understand.
A doctor raised his hand to move to uphold, another seconded, and then all of the Board Members unanimously declared to uphold the decision.
Neither the motion nor the decision were ever actually stated, but it was to cease and desist, don’t do it again — “it” being practicing medicine without a license. What this hints to me, the writer, is that formally stating the decision would require an explanation supporting the decision and no one was prepared to do so, either as a subversive tactic for the day (we were actually thrown out, prevented from taking a peaceful group photo in the lobby), or as an ongoing tactic of “because we can.”
What is important for all women to know is that the board isn’t made up of consumers or consumer advocates. If it were, it would have members such as homebirthers Jennifer Wisner, Tammy Gallo, Tara McElfresh, Lisa Breton, Aja McCarty, and Bruce and Randy Neely who were here with their homebirthing daughter, Kendra Smith. They might have included a gentle birth La Leche League leader like Rebecca Cronon.
I think the Board’s worst fear, though, is that a member of their own community, someone like Susan Parker, RN, CEN might have been on the Board. As a hospital-based nurse, Susan has seen “the worst of the worst including witnessing a maternal death just six months before” she herself gavebirth. The experience left her even more determined to birth at home.
Which hospital you ask? Avoiding that hospital in particular won’t keep you any safer in birth. Maternal deaths in hospitals are everywhere like Hawaii, California, and New Jersey, as well as many other states and the truth behind the stories aren’t being told. Consider this, embolism is one of the leading causes of maternal death. Risk of embolism increases with surgical procedures and the cesarean rate is climbing steadily!
We are not arguing that no one ever needs to birth in a hospital nor that everyone needs to birth at home. The point is that we have medics who do not know normal, natural childbirth, but they are making unfounded decisions about a non-medical event. This, while they are forgetting to investigate their own at the least, and turn a blind eye to their own at worst.
The midwives’ next step is an appeal or to argue for the right to argue the decision.
I may not have been alive in 1692 but what transpired over the past few years and culminated in today’s five minutes in Hartford, Connecticut, could only have been done better were the Board Members in period costume.