Letter to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JANUARY 19, 2012 7:20 AM

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Midwives: Heroes or felons?

On Dec. 11, 2011, when CNN acclaimed Robin Lim (a former Iowan) as the "Hero of the Year," midwives and mothers the world over rejoiced. "Mother Robin" earned the title for her humanitarian work in Indonesia, where she has founded two free midwife-staffed maternity clinics.

Ironically, the very practice of midwifery that gained Lim international renown could have landed her a felony charge had she been reported for practicing midwifery in Iowa, her home base of many years. That's because Certified Professional Midwives such as Lim are not allowed licensure within the state and thus are charged with practicing medicine without a license — despite the fact that the midwife credential has been proven for its safety and excellence and is the standard of midwifery licensure for many other states nationwide.

It makes sense why midwives would be needed in the developing world, where health-care costs can be prohibitive. However, many people don't realize that midwifery care saves lives even in Western nations. The United States is a far cry from the safest place on Earth to give birth, according to statistics. The top five European nations utilized midwifery in 70 percent of all births in 1990.

Iowa-born and educated midwifery champion Ina May Gaskin has proven the benefits of midwifery care in her practice in Tennessee. Gaskin has maintained excellent statistics in maternal and newborn outcomes with extraordinarily low complication rates.

So which way is it — and how should it be? Are midwives such as Lim and Gaskin heroes — or felons? America at large has given its answer in voting Robin Lim a hero. If you agree, get in touch with Friends of Iowa Midwives at friendsofiowamidwives.org.

Cheyenne Francis
Mount Sterling resident

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