Oregon Legislator Julie Parrish Responds to Moms Hurt by Homebirth

On February 16, several families who have been hurt by homebirth and their supporters came together in protest at the Oregon statehouse. What were they protesting? Oregon lay midwives who were holding a rally at the same time. Yes, Oregon homebirth midwives are beginning to worry that their free reign in Oregon may be coming to an end. People are starting to realize that it’s ridiculous that you need a license and training to paint someone’s  fingernails in this state but not to declare yourself a midwife.

So the midwives are stepping up their rhetoric. They pay Alan Tressider around $2,000 a month to lobby for them in Salem. Missy Cheney, chair of the Oregon Board of Direct Entry Midwifery (the entity, I might add, that is supposed to be REGULATING licensed midwives), is re-writing bills on behalf of the midwives and crowing about it in Oregon Midwifery Council newsletters. And then they have their annual rally day in which they gather on the statehouse steps to pat themselves on the back and then head inside to meet with their legislators.

Much to the shock of the counter-protesters, one of the pro-lay-midwife speakers at the rally was none other than Representative Julie Parrish, who has been appointed to a 3 member house sub-committee on midwifery. She spoke about how lay midwives were going to save the state so much money and co-opted the language of choice to refer to midwifery care.

Following the protest, several of the mothers hurt by homebirth midwives in Oregon took the time to express their concerns to Parrish, which they have shared with 10Centimeters.

K. wrote:

I was disturbed that a representative was at the rally for midwives on February 16, 2012. Did you see the opposition? Did you wonder about the 38 names on the balloons that represented the loss of life or injury? Did you speak with any of the grieving families? Did you bother to ask about the financial burden a midwife can cause and leave a family, while eluding any sort of responsibility for their ineptitude? My midwife first gave me a financial agreement for $4950. I never signed it. She switched the paperwork and asked me to “sign this real quick”. She changed the cost to $6500. After my emergency transfer and c-section due to the medical incompetence of my licensed, certified midwife, my bill now totaled $30,000. The midwives billed my insurance $11,000 and received $7,000. All without even delivering my son. I filed a complaint with OHLA. It took them 7 months to even call me for an interview. It has now been 17 months and I have heard nothing. My midwife lied, forged medical documents and apparently did not have the proper education. 

Please ask, look and listen to the families of the dead, injured and financially strapped due to a midwives negligence. Midwives do not save Oregon money if they continue to cause harm. We need proper education, OHLA to actually regulate on the behalf of the consumers, accountability for their actions and responsibility in the form of insurance. Ask MANA to release the information, we need transparency. How can you form an educated opinion on such a subject without looking at both sides? Please open your eyes to the families that continue to suffer. We only want safety for our mothers and babies. Midwives should want the same.

Thank you for your time. 

And C. wrote:

Dear Representative Parrish,

My friends tell me you supported midwives wholeheartedly at their rally last week. I was unable to attend, as I am recovering from pelvic reconstruction surgery and a hysterectomy due to severe prolapse caused by certified professional Oregon midwives’ destruction of my perineum (performing episiotomies and one repair – over two births – that I later learned they had no idea how to perform). 

I urge you to look into the hidden side of midwifery in Oregon: The high cost of caring for the babies and mamas that CPMs (severely undertrained – even the most experienced of the lot!) endanger and harm. The cost to Oregon – and to victims like me – is much greater than any money they appear to be saving anyone!
…During my first birth in 2007, a CPM who later didn’t report my scar tissue performed an episiotomy (talking my husband out of the hospital transfer he was requesting, which I would have supported) that included scissors slipping. That’s okay when you’re cutting felt, but not perineal tissue. Then she missed that I tore into my rectum – again, I should have been risked out of midwife repair, but she hadn’t the education to do that. Then I waited for hours until my second CPM sewed me up – grossly crooked and overlapping. Perhaps unfortunately, even though standard of care dictates laceration repair is to be concluded within three hours of the laceration, I did heal completely – but that crooked and overlapping repair set the stage for my tragic second birth, in which my child was thankfully unscathed but I endured a double episiotomy that was, frankly, violent. My third midwife involved in all of this, the owner of the birth center, wrenched and sawed. I am not exaggerating… I lost two liters of blood. And remember that three-hour-repair standard of care? That was news to this midwife, too, only this time I did *not* heal completely. The last part of my repair (completed after my transfer to Legacy) fell apart, and left me with a gaping vagina and a millimeter – maybe two – between vagina and anus. The double episiotomy was necessary because the baby could not get past the overlapping repair job from my first birth – there just wasn’t enough room, and that scar tissue would not stretch. 
I’m not even telling you everything that happened. CPMs did so much wrong in our births. The midwife recopied my second birth’s labor notes (illegal – and also common during poor midwife-attended outcomes, I have found). After the second birth, my midwives actually wanted to get me back into the birth tub (I birthed on a bed nearby) per my wishes, as I had no idea how bad my condition was, and would have let me had I not fainted on the way. There is more. And I could go on about the physical and emotional ramifications this ordeal has had for me and my family, and the thousands of dollars all this has cost, but I want to emphasize what got me here: Repeated cavalier carelessness combined with inadequate training. Every single one of the other midwifery malpractice victims I have met has experienced the same thing. There is a disturbing trend at work here. And Oregon is leading the way, because women travel from all over the country to attend Birthingway College of Midwifery!
Families need to know what they’re choosing when they choose a midwife. Midwives need to be not just licensed, but required to carry malpractice insurance as a condition of licensure. Training and oversight needs vast improvement. (OHLA still hasn’t gotten back to me about their investigation into my midwives. It’s been months and months … several months ago, I was told a decision was coming soon. No word since. I’m almost afraid to ask. I fear I don’t really want to know what little OHLA has done about my midwives’ negligence!) Reporting needs to be thorough and unbiased – and available to the public! 
Both women received the exact same response:

Thanks so much for your email. I’m sorry to hear of the complications from your birth experience.

Yes, I do support midwives, and people’s right to choose how to have their child. My personal birth choice for all three of my children was to have them in hospitals. I believe in people’s personal liberties to make the choices they see fit for their families. And yes, I do know that there have been complications for women attended by midwives. And when those happen, they are tragic to be sure, but because of the stigma around home births and midwivery as a choice, they also become more pronounced in the media.

I’ve sat now through a few hearings about midwivery practice in Oregon and when I asked the officials from the state about statistics around mortality rates for infants delivered via a midwife, I was told that there were five deaths in 2010. When I asked for the same statistic for hospital mortalities [sic], I was told they don’t actively track that number.

The night I had my first child, I went to the hospital to be induced. Another couple we knew had the same doctor and was also being induced that evening. One of us went home with a child, the other didn’t. Clearly, bad outcomes happen in hospitals too. Ironically, the doctor who delivered my first child serves in the Oregon Legislature with me.

Birthing babies is definitely not what happens in the movies. It can be scary, and dramatic, and yes, tragedies do happen. My support of midwives has less to do with cost savings, and more to do with a family’s right to make a choice that serves their family. That choice also needs to be an informed choice. All the laws we write won’t mitigate the inherent risk of having a child.

If a midwife is performing outside of their scope, that’s something to be looked at to be sure. Ensuring a midwife is safe in his/her practice is critical. But I will continue to support birth choices for families, and hope that each family will weigh the pro’s and con’s of a midwife/home birth over a more traditional hospital birth.

Again, I am truly sorry that your own experience had an unfortunate ending around what should have been a joyous occasion for your family.

Best,

Julie Parrish

That’s right, Loss Moms: Babies die in hospitals, too. Straight from a legislator near you. And once again, the co-opting of the language of choice. Are pro-choice advocates working for women to be able to choose a back-alley abortion with an unlicensed and untrained provider? No, just the opposite.

Not only that, she claims that hospital death numbers aren’t tracked. Um…you can get the hospital data from the CDC Wonder database. It is true that vital statistics data is compiled very slowly, and the most recent information available to the public is from 2007. But it exists, and will eventually have the 2010 data, so to say that it isn’t recorded is the epitome of baloney. For the years between 2000 and 2007, the average hospital infant mortality rate in Oregon 37 weeks and beyond is 2.3/1000. This is for all care providers, including MDs who take on high risk mothers and babies. The average rate for CNMs in Oregon, which is the group to which we should be comparing homebirth midwives, is 1.7/1000. Homebirth midwives other than CNMs in Oregon averaged 735 births per year between 2002 and 2008. If you are generous and assume they had 900 births in 2010, the five deaths she mentions would be a death rate of 5.6/thousand. That rate is (drumroll please…) 3.3 TIMES the average CNM rate of death.

If you have something to say to Representative Parrish, you can contact her using the following information:

Her email is rep.julieparrish@state.or.us.

Her office address in Salem is:

900 Court St. NE, H-386
Salem, OR 97301

Her district office address is:

1980 Willamette Falls Drive #120-312 West Linn, Oregon 97068.