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Abby Odam and Birthing Rights in California

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An interactive resource for moms on easy steps they can take to reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.

Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy

These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.

I wanted to write a few things about Abby Odam.

I know there are people who feel that it was right for her to be jailed, because her practice of midwifery differed from the community standards.

I hope you realize that this kind of thinking denies birthing women their right to choose their birth attendant, and, for most women, thus restricts their right to choose the place of birth. Instead, it puts the power of choosing legally attended homebirth in other peoples' hands.

I think it is very useful to have some way of identifying a midwife as either practicing according to community standards or not. And I think it's essential that a midwife educate her clients about her protocols and what is and is not commonly accepted. And there are a lot of birthing women who might choose to have a homebirth VBAC, even though it might be contrary to community standards.

Should these women be declared unfit parents for choosing homebirth against medical advice? Should the midwives who attend them be prosecuted and jailed?

What about twins at home? Or what about breech? These are all actively discouraged around here, not because they're considered medically unsafe, but because they're considered legally unsafe. If one of our local midwives attended one of these cases and there were a problem, I'm sure she'd be hauled in for "Child Endangerment Due to Criminal Negligence."

About Abby's trial:

I'm sure the media was happy to parrot statements that midwifery was not on trial. I wonder if all those San Diego DEMs realize that the prosecutors manipulated the situation so that homebirth was, indeed, on trial.

Here's a quote from Faith Gibson - who probably knows more about the legal situation in California than anyone else:


This past month a midwife was tried in the criminal court in San Diego and found guilty of 6 felony counts of practicing medicine without a licensed and child endangerment. The investigation was done by the Consumer Affairs investigation staff. The medical board worked closely with the DA's office on this. The judge refused to try the case on a lesser charge of practicing midwifery without a license, which is a misdemeanor. His view was that the new midwifery bill passed by legislature did not supersede the 1976 legal opinion declaring unlicensed midwifery to be an illegal practice of medicine.

The core issue of this prosecution was to define medically-unmanaged births as potential child endangerment cases. This opens the door for all persons involved in home births without physician supervision to be arrested under felony charges of child endangerment, with the possibility of the parents of homebirth babies losing child custody.

Other CA midwives do not want the public or courts to believe they support these specific activities--not midwifery in general.
Well, I'm one CA midwife who wants the public to know that I support the right of a woman to choose her birth attendant and place of birth, regardless. And, quite frankly, once my license is in my pocket, I won't be jeopardizing it by attending births with questionable suitability for homebirth.

There's only so much I can do as a provider rather than a consumer. It is essential for birthing families who value their homebirth choice to be politically aware and active.

P.S. The more pessimistic among CA midwives believe that the only reason the witch hunts haven't started here yet is that they haven't yet concluded the "grandmothering" licensing process. There is no process in place for anyone to get a license after this current process ends in January, 1998. By then, they'll have all the names and addresses, they'll have regulations requiring written backup protocols (which are unobtainable), and they'll have the San Diego precedents.

This Web page is referenced from another page containing related information about Legal Aspects of Midwifery


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