Im originally from Charlotte NC and am in town visiting this week, thinking about going to this tomorrow. Anyone else going?
Rally planned to protest arrest of longtime N.C. midwife
Supporters of home births push for law to allow midwifery without R.N. status.
Supporters of home births and midwives plan a rally in Raleigh Wednesday to protest the arrest of a longtime N.C. midwife and to push for a law that would allow midwives like her to deliver babies at home.
Emily "Amy" Medwin, 56, of Yadkin County, was arrested Feb. 20 for the unlawful practice of midwifery.
It isn't the first time Medwin, who has delivered hundreds of babies since 1979, has attracted attention from police.
She was arrested in 1998, although the charges were dropped when the complainant, a Mocksville woman whose baby Medwin delivered, declined to testify.
Medwin's latest arrest has turned the spotlight on N.C.'s midwifery law and renewed the debate over who should legally be allowed to deliver babies and where.
"Right now, a fully trained and credentialed certified professional midwife who can legally practice in Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida is at risk for being arrested for providing the same quality care in North Carolina," said Russ Fawcett of N.C. Friends of Midwives.
"This is not right, and makes home-birthing families less safe," he said. "Amy has closed her practice, leaving dozens of women who had planned home births...in crisis."
The N.C. Medical Society is against changing the law. "We have concerns about patient safety, the training of the person delivering the baby and the need for supervision," said spokesman Mike Edwards.
"We don't want to lower standards," he said. "Our position is that there should be physician supervision to ensure quality."
N.C. and S.C. laws differ
Since 1983, N.C. law has required midwives to be registered nurses who have completed midwifery education and passed a certification exam. They must be supervised by doctors, who can back them up in complicated deliveries.
Although not a nurse, Medwin has completed midwifery education and passed tests to become a certified professional midwife, or CPM. Under state law, she can't get a license unless she first becomes a nurse. And without a license, she's breaking the law if she uses her training to oversee a home birth.
About half the states, including those bordering North Carolina, allow CPMs to deliver babies at home. North Carolina is one of about 10 states that specifically prohibit CPMs from practicing.
As a result, many women who want to give birth at home cross state lines. Some of Medwin's patients have contacted Carolina Community Maternity Center in Fort Mill.
The year-old center is operated by CPMs, who are licensed in South Carolina. But Director Leigh Fransen said 75 percent of the center's patients come from North Carolina, 50 percent from Charlotte.
"It's hard for us to understand that a highly qualified midwife like Amy Medwin can't practice and we can," Fransen said. "She has more experience than any of us. ... Women in every state should have access to legally practicing midwives."
Charged in Rowan County
Medwin, who spoke to the Observer Monday, is licensed in Virginia and would like to be licensed in North Carolina, but the law won't allow it.
She said no parent has complained about her care.
Medwin was attending a home birth in Charlotte on Feb. 19 when a relative of the parents called 911. The newborn was transported to the hospital. Police checking Medwin's background found a warrant for her arrest in Rowan County. She was not charged with a midwifery violation in Mecklenburg County. The Rowan County charge stemmed from the stillbirth of a child in January. The child's mother, who spoke to the Observer on condition of anonymity, said she'd had two previous home births. This time, labor came quickly, and her third child was stillborn, the mother said.
Medwin, a family friend who had provided prenatal care for free, "wasn't even there."
At the hospital, the mother said she felt law enforcement officers were suggesting she had been negligent by not having a doctor provide prenatal care.
Medwin came forward to acknowledge providing care, and got arrested for doing it, the mother said. "She could have dodged it, but she stuck up for us. I still support her. I'm proud of her."
The mother added that she did not hold Medwin responsible for the stillbirth.
New demand for midwives
Midwives have delivered babies at home for centuries, before doctors began specializing in obstetrics and before hospitals marketed homelike maternity centers. They were often experienced, older women called "granny midwives."
Today, home births are having a resurgence.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last year showed a 5 percent increase in demand for out-of-hospital midwife births in 2005 nationally. North Carolina saw one of the largest increases in home births, 32 percent, in the study period, from 2003-2004 and 2005-2006.
Nurse midwives, although licensed in North Carolina, get most of their training in hospitals and can't oversee home births without a doctor's OK.
"It's very rare that there's an OB/GYN who's going to agree to be the supervising physician for a midwife who's doing home births," said Nancy Mathias, a nurse midwife who teaches in the midwifery program at UNC Chapel Hill.
She supports licensing certified professional midwives.
"Women are going to have babies at home. Just because you don't license somebody to take care of them doesn't mean they're not going to have the babies at home," Mathias said. "They need to have people to be there to make sure it's as safe as it can be.
"The majority of women who are healthy can have a home birth safely."
N.C. Friends of Midwives, a grassroots organization of midwife advocates, has tried for years to get legislators to establish a licensing board for CPMs. But Fawcett said the Medical Society has consistently opposed it.
He said there are 29 certified professional midwives in North Carolina.
Of those, about 10, including Medwin, have been practicing, despite the law that forbids them to oversee home births.
"When you object to regulation, you make it less safe," Fawcett said. "You drive the midwives underground."