Dangerous Jobs: Midwifery

The work of providing health services and care for the reproductive processes of female-bodied persons is dangerous work. It rarely pays well and it’s legal status is often on shaky ground which doesn’t do much for job security. Worse, it can sometimes get you arrested, stalked, harassed, intimidated, and/or killed.

I’m beginning to put together the pieces, you see. After hearing about seemingly unrelated events happening to two very different types of care providers, the puzzle started to come together. Whether you provide abortions or help women have their babies at home, it seems, the act of providing reproductive health services is dangerous and can be hazardous to your health.

Just this week, a CPM was arrested in North Carolina for practicing illegally. Yes, it’s still illegal to practice direct-entry midwifery in North Carolina and a surprising number of other states. Even if you have taken the national exam and proven your competence as a midwife, it is illegal. Whenever I tell friends who are not connected to birth work or the homebirth movement these facts, their jaws drop. They don’t believe me and think I’m lying. They are indignant. They are outraged.

On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Maddow has been following the story of Dr. Mila Means who has been trying to set up a practice in Kansas to provide abortion services. This is particularly important because she’s taking over the area that Dr. George Tiller used to serve before he was murdered point blank in his church. Here, the threat is not arrest but, in fact, death.


Now, as far as I know, no one is threatening to murder midwives. But they are subject in many areas to arrest and criminal trials, even when no one in the community that they serve is willing to step forward against them. It’s the state who does the arresting and charging in these cases. I wanted to point out the links here because I don’t think most people would tell you that well-trained, professional midwives should not be allowed to practice. Even most pro-life folks out there wouldn’t tell you this. As far as I know, most pro-life folks are probably especially ardent supporters of CPMs and direct-entry midwives. But the bottom line is that both abortion providers and homebirth midwives are working to provide women with a real choice, one that often differs dramatically from the mainstream. And that seemingly radical act is what makes them dangerous and worth persecuting.