Batshittery Redux: Sisterhood Before Safety

Ever since I wrote the post This is Batshittery, I remain appalled and aghast at the continued support the homebirth community offers to killer midwives. At the time, I received several comments along the lines of, “Don’t lump us together with those extremists!” or “They really aren’t getting THAT much support.” Unfortunately, the more I observe this horrifying phenomenon, the more I believe that it simply isn’t the case. These midwives have large numbers of supporters, including the leaders of the natural birth movement, and these advocates are putting the cause before the lives and health of women and babies.

Lisa Barrett has presided over five deaths in four years. Even if she were attending 100 births a year (which I’m sure she isn’t), this would be a shockingly high and inappropriate death rate. She revels in her maverick status and her website is full of birth stories which showcase her questionable judgment. Is she being called out by members of the homebirth community? No, but there are TWO facebook groups (Including one brilliantly named “I support Lisa Barrett and That’s Final“) with more than 1600 members showing their support and raising money for her. She was also a featured speaker at this year’s Trust Birth conference.

But there are no facebook groups raising money for her victims.

If Lisa Barrett were an isolated incident, maybe I could be convinced it’s just a few supporters showing their cultish devotion. But it isn’t. Not only did she take on a 43-year-old first-time mother (in an of itself a high-risk situation) with a breech presentation, whose baby ultimately died and preside over the death of a twin shortly after birth, Karen Carr also told a hemorrhaging mother who was being transported not to tell the hospital about the drugs she’d administered. This behavior is unconscionable for a midwife. In spite of the behavior, however, Karen Carr has more than 1500 supporters sending her money in the Legal Defense Fund for Karen Carr, CPM Facebook community and a whole bunch of people showed up to protest at her hearings.

But no one is raising money for her victims.

Sara and Jarad Snyder’s son Magnus died at the hands of midwives at the Greenhouse Birth Center in Michigan. In spite of the fact that the midwives carry no malpractice insurance, the Snyders managed to find an attorney to take their case, and they are suing. Are any homebirth advocates raising funds to assist them with their legal bills? Hardly. There are homebirth advocates, however, banding together with the midwives to raise money for their legal assistance. In fact, the leader of the natural birth movement, Ina May Gaskin herself, is lending her support to these midwives. You can’t get more mainstream (when it comes to NCBers, at least) than that. Other supporters include Barbara Harper of Waterbirth International; Peggy O’Mara, former publisher and editor of Mothering magazine and Mothering.com mogul; Jennifer Block, author of Pushed; and Geradine Simkins, president of MANA.

And the latest batshittery? At a birth center in Idaho, there were three infant deaths between October 11, 2010 and August 9, 2011. That’s THREE DEATHS IN LESS THAN A YEAR (side note: 2010 and 2011 are going to be banner years for CPMs. I can hardly wait for the CDC numbers to come out.). In one case, they neglected to clamp the cord before they cut it. In another, they took on a mother with Type 1 diabetes, a situation that many obstetricians will refer to a MFM and then neglected to transfer when the baby’s heart rate dipped dangerously low. When paramedics were eventually called, the midwife delayed them in reaching the mother. And finally, they allowed a woman to push for more than 10 hours after discovering meconium in her amniotic fluid. After these deaths, was there an outcry? Were there facebook groups created to raise money for these stricken families? No, but there was an outcry that the midwives are being investigated.

And we can’t forget Clarebeth Loprinzi, who abandoned a woman for hours with her placenta still in her uterus and who’s license was finally revoked years later after yet another infant death. Midwifery Today, the banner publication for homebirth, is hawking “educational” recordings she made with Anita Rojas, another midwife involved in Oregon infant deaths.

Then there’s Gloria LeMayAlison OsbornEvelyn MulhanAmy Medwin. Diane Goslin. Janet Fraser.

I’m sorry, but it looks like you homebirth supporters who find this bizarre phenomenon distressing are actually in the minority. The people who are supporting these mavericks are making a statement, “It is more important to make homebirth look good than to make it safe for women and babies.” But in reality, this blind devotion isn’t even serving your purpose. As homebirth becomes more mainstream and these bad midwives continue to practice, they will be hurting more and more families. More attorneys will take on civil suits.  More legislators will be appalled. More arrests will be made. Why not pull your support now and throw the bums out?