DRAFT ~ Faith’s personal and professional background story

by faithgibson on December 10, 2013

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Originally I was an L&D nurse in the bad old days of “knock’em out, drag ’em out” (K.O.D.O.) obstetrics, which consisted of Twilight Sleep drugs, gen. anes, and the routine performance of a “generous”  episiotomies and low-forceps delivery, followed by manual removal of the placenta and perineal suturing of the still unconscious new mother. This represents the most profound change in normal childbirth practices in the history of the human species.
As a childbearing woman myself, I attempted to avoid these harmful practices, which at the time were unavoidable, the only way I could — that is, by getting to the hospital very late in my labor. However, Providence decreed that I gave birth to my first baby in the back seat of our Renault in the ER drive way of the hosp. that i worked at, both amazed and thrilled to be the first person alter GOD to put my hands on my tiny new daughter.
After trying to change the “system” from within for more than a decade (and getting fired more than once as a result), I permanently ‘retired’ from hospital obstetrics and walked away from the nursing profession. Over time I began practicing as a Mennonite midwife under California’s religious exemptions clause, which at the time was the only avenue of ‘legal’ practice for non-nurse midwives attending births in a non-medical setting.
Unfortunately, State’s medical board was for political reasons trying to get the rel exemptions provision relative to mfry declared illegal and I became their ‘test case’. After being arrested by agents of the Medical Board in my home in the presence of my youngest daughter I was and handcuffed driven 20 miles to a jail in another part of the county.
In some ways this was quite fitting — as a healthy pregnant woman giving birth in the hospital I’d been hand-cuffed to the side of the OR-type delivery table and now i was being handcuffed for the so-called ‘crime’ of assisting other healthy women give birth normally and criminally prosecuted over the course of 20 months.
While i was represented by an excellent attorney, she appeared not to have any defensive strategy except to request endless postponements of the preliminary hearing, and hope that midwife-friendly legislation would get passed that would make the case legally ‘moot’ before it came to trial.
Like the account in your presentation of the laboring woman facing a medically-unnecessary Cesarean that she didn’t want, and unable to enlist her husband to support and defend her position, I fully realized that my legal predicament reflected an e entrenched social phenomenon.
If the general conclusion in “society”, as reflected in my many friends, family, neighbors, church members, client families, city officials, etc), was to be solidly convinced and sure that childbirth was a normal biological event and that it was “right, proper and salutary” that civilized societies normally provide trained midwives to support the normal physiological events of labor, birth and new baby, a group of concerned citizens would have (as i described it) “saddled up their horses, galloped off to the courthouse and subsequently demand that the sheriff immediate “unhand” their midwife and that would have been the end of it.
Of course, my situation was the opposite of this.
After the legal impasse had gone on for more than a year, I in desperation began doing my own legal research at a local law library. After xeroxing hundreds of pages of the medical practice act, going back to 1876, I was able to prove to the D.A. that our state Legislature had never been declared non-medical mfry to be a crime in California, and that its practice by lay midwives under the rel. exemptions clause was currently and fully lawful.
He subsequently dropped the changes against me were dropped during my 16th court appearance on April 29th, 1993. His statement on the court record (and repeated in a San Jose Mercury newspaper editorial on May 5th) identified my practice of lay midwifery to be legal. Based on this new revelation, the newspaper editorial challenged the California Medical Association (state chapter of the AMA) to stop using its political influence against ‘competent midwives like Ms Gibson’, and allow us instead to practice legally under state licensure.
As a direct result of this, organized medicine in our state concluded that the only way to continue to making traditional non-medical mfry difficult, if not impossible to practice, was by passing a dysfunctional mfry licensing law. The Licensed Midwifery PRactice Act of 1993 classified the legacy profession of direct-entry (non-medical) midwifery (which was legal until until nurse-mfry legislation was passed in 1974) to instead be a medicalized discipline under the control of the medical profession, and requiring that LM could only practice under the supervision of an obstetrician.  This was a legal impossibility, which was of course the goal.
As for me, the only retribution allowed to Mennonites is to love our enemies. This result in two new behaviors. First expanded my unusual experience with topical libraries to include Stanford University’s
I attended my first Medical Board meetings four days after the case against me was dropped. I spoke up frequently but very briefly and calmly on behalf of normal care for normal childbirth, which is what midwives provide. Eventually I represented the legal and legislative interests of the newly licensed profession of LM and ultimately became the MBC’s favorite or “go to” midwife. These efforts included new legislation that amended the LMPA in our favorMy history of political activism is too long for simple email for the last 17 years as a professionally-licenced LM & CPM   but I did attach an essay published in Sept 2011 in the journal BIRTH, which does provides information on my personal prof. background and both the historical reasons for