I’d like to introduce a new term to the lexicon, because sometimes the old terms don’t really capture what I am trying to express. To “sanctimommy” and “quacktivist,” I’d like to add “babyslaughter.”
What is babyslaughter? Simply put, it is the newborn equivalent of manslaughter.
According to an online legal dictionary:
Manslaughter is a distinct crime and is not considered a lesser degree of murder. The essential distinction between the two offenses is that malice aforethought must be present for murder, whereas it must be absent for manslaughter. Manslaughter is not as serious a crime as murder. On the other hand, it is not a justifiable or excusable killing for which little or no punishment is imposed.
Indeed, a number of homebirth midwives have been arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter in the past. I think it will have a lot more impact if we were more precise in naming it involuntary babyslaughter.
My definition of involuntary babyslaughter is this:
A newborn death resulting from taking of an unreasonable and high degree of risk should be considered criminally negligent babyslaughter.
And similar to manslaughter:
… The existence of a duty is essential. Since the law does not recognize that an ordinary person has a duty to aid or rescue another in distress, an ensuing death from failure to act would not be manslaughter. On the other hand, an omission in which one has a duty, such as the failure of a lifeguard to attempt to save a drowning person, might constitute the offense.
When the failure to act is reckless or negligent, and not intentional, it is usually manslaughter…
The analogy to a lifeguard is particularly apt since midwives are hired for the express purpose of keeping baby and mother safe.
There is no question in my mind that midwives like Lisa Barrett, Gloria Lemay, Karen Carr and Amy Medwin are guilty of babyslaughter. In each case, the midwife had a duty to aid the mother and baby. In each case the midwife took an unreasonable and high degree of risk. In each case the failure to act (or act differently) was reckless and negligent. In each case, the midwife did not intend for the baby to die.
Babyslaughter brings the full import of what these women have done into the light of day.
How about MANA (the Midwives Alliance of North America)? Their actions would never be considered manslaughter in law since they don’t have a legal obligation to individual mothers. However, in my judgment, they have a moral obligation and in that sense they are guilty of babyslaughter.
MANA consistently promotes the taking of an unreasonable and high degree of risk.
MANA consistently credentials women as “midwives” when they lack the education and training required of ALL other midwives in the first world.
MANA consistently opposes efforts to hold midwives accountable for their actions.
Though we might argue about the scientific evidence regarding the risk of homebirth in very low risk situations with highly educated attendants (such as in the Netherlands or the UK), there is no argument that homebirth of breech, twins, and VBAC has no supporting scientific evidence. Nonetheless, MANA consistently backs efforts to expand homebirth midwives’ scope of practice far beyond anything supported by scientific evidence.
MANA does not intend for babies to die at homebirth, but, like the lifeguard who sits idle as someone drowns, MANA makes no effort to prevent those deaths.
And, to my mind, most egregious of all:
MANA is actively engaged in hiding their own statistics that show, beyond any doubt, that homebirth dramatically increases the risk of perinatal death. MANA knows that homebirth kills babies; they are doing everything in their power to prevent women from finding out.
MANA has an ethical obligation to mothers to provide accurate information about the risks of homebirth and they are intentionally and negligently hiding that data, thereby allowing American women to inadvertently choose an unreasonable and high degree of risk to their babies by choosing homebirth.
I understand that legally MANA could never be charged with manslaughter. Ethical charges are another matter altogether and ethically MANA ought to be charged with involuntary babyslaughter, and there is a high degree of likelihood that they would be found guilty.