20 years of presiding over homebirth deaths

Baby shoes

Last night a reader sent me a link to this story of an Indiana midwife arrested in the wake of two perinatal deaths in one week:

Barbara S. Parker, 55, faces three felony counts of practicing midwifery without a license. These charges stem from three August deliveries.

The first was on Aug. 2nd when Parker took a woman to an Auburn hospital when she was having trouble delivering her child. Then on Aug. 3rd Parker helped a woman deliver a baby that wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. That child later died at the hospital. Then a few days later, on Aug. 7th, Parker was helping a mother deliver twins and the second infant was only partially delivered and had to be taken through cesarean section. According to court papers, the second child did not survive.

Parker told police that she had been licensed in Colorado in the early 1990’s, but a little research revealed that didn’t go so well either. She lost her license and lost her court battle to retain it (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF COLORADO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, v. JEAN ROSBURG AND BARBARA PARKER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS):

This case involves an appeal of a trial court’s order permanently enjoining appellants Jean Rosburg and Barbara Parker from practicing midwifery without a license as prohibited by sections 12-36-106(1)(f) and 12-36-106(2), 5 C.R.S. (1985).*fn1 The midwives argued to the trial court that section 12-36-106(1)(f) unconstitutionally infringed the right of privacy of pregnant women to choose their method of childbirth and that the section was unconstitutionally vague. The trial court ruled that the midwives did not have standing to assert the privacy right of pregnant women*fn2 and that section 12-36-106(1)(f) was not unconstitutionally vague. The midwives appealed to this court pursuant to section 13-4-102(1)(b), 6A C.R.S. (1987).

We agree with Rosburg and Parker that they have standing in this case to assert the privacy right of pregnant women. We disagree, however, that the prohibition against practicing midwifery without a license infringes a privacy right of pregnant women. We hold that section 12-36-106(1)(f) does not violate the midwives’ equal protection right because the prohibition of lay midwifery bears a rational relationship to the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the health of the pregnant woman and her child. We also hold that section 12-36-106(1)(f) is not unconstitutionally vague.

After reviewing the arguments, the Court concluded:

The term “practice of midwifery” also is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Rosburg and Parker. They also were aware of what conduct was prohibited by the statute and their conduct fell within the prohibition. Rosburg testified at trial that her profession was that of a lay midwife and she defined the term in accordance with applicable dictionary and legal definitions.*fn10 The trial court also specifically found that Rosburg and Parker had engaged in the practice of midwifery.

Accordingly, we uphold the constitutionality of section 12-36-106(1)(f) and affirm the trial court’s order permanently enjoining Rosburg and Parker from practicing midwifery without a license.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the original case that led to Parker losing her Colorado license. Although it almost certainly resulted from at least one perinatal death, I cannot confirm that. In any case, Parker has continued to practice despite disciplinary measures and mothers and babies have allegedly continued to pay the price.