In mid-November Elizabeth Catlin, a Certified Professional Midwife, who for years worked primarily with the Mennonite community in Yates County, NY, was arrested for "posing as a midwife" and practicing without proper NYS licensure. CPM's can legally practice in 31 states with an additional 11 states floating active bills.
Home birth is a culturally traditional part of the Mennonite community. Most of Elizabeth's clients do not drive vehicles for religious reasons; their main source of transportation is horse-and-buggy. Residents of Yates County who wish to have hospital births must travel to Canandaigua, Rochester, Newark, Elmira or Ithaca. This is not a practical option for anyone, but especially those within the horse-and-buggy Mennonite community. It is crucial that they have a trained midwife who can come to their homes.
After Elizabeth's arrest she was told to stop any and all work as a midwife while her case is being investigated. She has complied completely but still is being persecuted and prosecuted.
Women within the Mennonite community who Elizabeth served have spoken out in protest of the arrest. They don't have anyone to turn to if she no longer can assist in their births. The only other midwife in all of Yates County retired earlier this month due to health reasons. There have been at least three unattended births since Elizabeth's arrest in mid-November, and if something isn't worked out soon, there will be many more. This is putting these women and their babies in potentially very dangerous situations. This is a maternity care crisis. This crisis is not just in this Mennonite Community but has far reaching effects throughout all "Plain" communities.
This has been financially damaging to Elizabeth Catlin, whose income solely supports her own family through the work she does; it is emotionally damaging to her clients who, as a culture, have been giving birth at home for years; and is a violation of women's rights to choose where and with whom they give birth.
How Can You Help?
1. Make a financial donation to lessen the impact on Elizabeth and her family. This money will be used to hire an attorney for her case and cover her current legal and living expenses. Anything raised above and beyond her needs will be donated to Home Birth Advocacy.
NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL, it all adds up!
2. Post the linkto this and spread the word around to those who value midwives and the rights of families to choose where and with whom they give birth.
3. Write to your legislators: It is vitally important that everyone send a letter or postcard to legislators to let them know that families have poor access to midwifery care and that their basic human rights to birth where they want and with whom they want is being violated. Every time a home birth happens the legislator needs to know.