Hero or Felon?
When CNN acclaimed Robin Lim (a former Iowan) as the "Hero of the Year" on December 11, 2011, midwives and mothers the world over rejoiced. "Mother Robin" earned the title for her humanitarian work in Indonesia, where she has founded two midwife-staffed health clinics providing maternity care without charge. In her acceptance, Lim poignantly stated, "Today on our earth, 981 mothers in the prime of life will die, and tomorrow again, and yesterday. And I'm asking you to help change that."
Ironically, the very practice of midwifery which has gained Lim international renown could have landed her a court case with charges of felony had she been reported for practicing midwifery in Iowa, her home base of many years. That's because Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) 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 CPM credential has been proven for its safety and excellence, and is already the standard of midwifery licensure for many other states nationwide.
It makes sense why midwives would be needed in the developing world, where healthcare costs can be prohibitive. In fact, the World Health Organization itself champions the cause of midwifery in developing countries. What many people don't realize is that midwifery care, with its personalized approach, 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. Those nations which best outdo us-mainly in Europe, as well as Japan-utilize midwifery care for 70% of all births.
Iowa-born and educated midwifery champion and matriarch Ina May Gaskin has proven the benefits of midwifery care in her practice in Tennessee. Gaskin, who is a world-renowned author and speaker, has been providing midwifery services for four decades at The Farm Midwifery Center. The center's statistics for over 2,000 births have been excellent, with low rates of anesthesia use, forceps deliveries, and episiotomies; and a Cesarean rate of less than two percent-phenomenal in a country with an alarming nationwide c-section rate of 32% (two to three times the number that WHO deems safe and beneficial).
In an interview following the CNN award ceremony, Robin Lim was asked what she hoped would come out of the honor given her. In addition to sharing her plans for building a new clinic in Indonesia, Lim stated, "I'm hoping that midwives all over the world get this kind of support. The midwives of the world really need your help, so that they can be the bridge to safe motherhood for so many mothers."
And so I ask: Which way is it-and how should it be? Are midwives such as Lim heroes-or felons? America at large has given its answer in voting Robin Lim a hero. Will the states still prohibiting the practice of midwifery take the cue and support the cause? According to CNN's hero, "We can save lives together-mothers and babies." If you agree, get in touch with Friends of Iowa Midwives (www.friendsofiowamidwives.org/). Midwives enrich and save lives!
Mount Sterling, Iowa