The same kinds of issues are involved here as during the witch hunts: the state’s monopoly power over reproduction and child care is being challenged by uppity women (it was midwives who were targeted by the church as “witches” because they knew about traditional healing independent of church teachings and they knew where the aristocrats’ and priests’ wild oats were sown). And you men out there who think this is strictly a “women’s issue” are sadly mistaken. Do you think midwives thought up the idea of circumcision or premature cord clamping or massive vaccinations or mother-deprivation or formula feeding or all the other abuses babies suffer in western obstetrics? These atrocities, which create a lifetime imprint of rage, depression and helplessness on babies, were introduced by men acting on behalf of state institutions, who had no concept of the emotional or physiological value of normal pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. They threw out centuries of accumulated traditional knowledge about baby care, and have only begun to scratch the surface of the scientifically demonstrable value of what they discarded. It’s time to return birth to those who have the capacity to understand it.
We’ve had a period of relative calm in the North American midwifery community since 2002. In an issue of Midwifery Today E-News from July 2001 ( http://www.midwiferytoday.com/enews/enews0329.asp ), Sandra Stine, CNM, wrote about the history of midwives under fire:
“I am thinking about Yvonne Cryns, Nan Koehler, Abby Odam, the granny midwives and every other traditional birth attendant in this country who has been crucified by the AMA or another source,” Stine stated. “Wonderful, loving, competent midwives have been jailed, lost their homes, spent thousands of dollars defending themselves, or were placed under house arrest while serving families competently. The AMA (American Medical Association) has a track record of prosecuting midwives in almost every state!”
In July of 2002, Gloria Lemay was imprisoned for contempt of court in Canada. A few months later, Mennonite midwife Freida Miller was arrested and imprisoned for contempt of court in Ohio. Thanks to easy Internet access in 2002, the stories of these imprisonments—and of the events that built up to them—were relayed around the globe. Both women were mature adults and both went to prison knowing they had widespread support in the international community. They went to prison with their heads held high and their supporters worked behind the scenes, fundraising and researching to free them. Money and well wishes flowed in from all over the world. North American midwives had entered a new era.
While in prison, Lemay learned that she would be given an award for being “the woman in Canada who had made the biggest contribution to midwifery care in the year 2002.” (Women’s Voice Award). The story of her incarceration can be found at: http://www.compleatmother.com/articles2/gloria_lemay.htm
To read more about the trial and imprisonment of Freida Miller, visit
Lemay is in great company. There are midwives in more than one country who have gone to jail for serving mothers and babies in birth and usually on trumped-up charges. These maverick women serve those who are in jail with them who are pregnant or have babies. In Russia, jailed mothers keep their babies with them. On a recent visit to Russia we heard about a midwife, a mother of six who was jailed for nine months. I heard that she just took care of the mothers and babies who were in prison. I understand that she is out now, but her homebirth practice was essentially taken away from her. So sad for the mothers and babies she served for 17 years. Gloria cannot call herself a midwife and I wonder when the province of British Columbia stole that word. Midwife was a word long before BC became a province. I wonder when the same thing will happen in the US. ….
Meanwhile the real witches (and warlocks) in white coats continue performing satanic rituals on newborn babies.