Ina May Gaskin leads her own cult


For years I’ve puzzled over the appeal of Ina May Gaskin.

She’s obviously a complete fraud. She babbles nonsense and makes up “statistics” that she refuses to publish in scientific journals. She has no education or training in midwifery. She has blood on her hands; homebirth kills babies, and indeed she let one of her own children die. She is a cult member who accepts her own husband as a “prophet.”

In writing yesterday’s post about the fact that she proudly transgresses personal boundaries, the final piece fell into place for me. Ina May Gaskin is the high priestess of her own cult, and her loyal followers, for their own reasons, pretend that she is leading them to the promised land.

What are the characteristics of a cult? According to the Group Psychological Abuse Scale, characteristics include:

  • The group advocates or implies that breaking the law is okay if it serves the interests of the group.
  • The group discourages members from displaying negative emotions.
  • Members feel they are part of a special elite.
  • The group teaches that persons who are critical of the group are [evil].
  • The group teaches special exercises … to push doubts or negative thoughts out of consciousness.
  • Medical attention is discouraged, even though there may be a medical problem.

What are the characteristics of cult leaders? According to Lalich and Langone, characteristics include:

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and … regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth …
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged …
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities …
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure …

It’s hardly surprising that Gaskin, the wife of a cult leader, has created her own cult in the area of action that he allows her. How do the characteristics of cults apply to homebirth in the US?

  • Homebirth advocates and homebirth midwives routinely break the law and encourage others to do so.
  • Homebirth advocates characterize dissent as “negativity.”
  • Homebirth advocates believe that they are more “educated” than others.
  • Homebirth advocates are vicious to those who question their beliefs. They reserve special contempt for women who have lost babies at homebirth.
  • Homebirth advocates attribute poor outcomes (from C-section to disability to death) to the “negative thoughts” of women who “didn’t trust” birth.
  • Medical attention is strongly discouraged, even though there may be a medical problem. Indeed medical problems are elided altogether by calling them “variations of normal.”

Does Gaskin exhibit the characteristics of a cult leader?

  • Homebirth advocates display zealous and unquestioning commitment to Gaskin, even though she has no education and training, let one of her own children die, and transgresses sexual boundaries.
  • No one questions Gaskin’s claims about homebirth even when they are obviously nonsensical. No one demands that Gaskin provide proof for her claims of purported excellent outcomes at The Farm.
  • Gaskin is not accountable to any authorities. Indeed she set herself up as THE authority, going so far as to join with others in creating a fake “credential” to fool non-cult members.
  • Homebirth advocates, including Gaskin, wield shame and guilt as cudgels to discipline members. Often, this is done through peer pressure.

Gaskin freely admits that she fondles women during labor:

It helps the mother to relax around her puss if you massage her there using a liberal amount of baby oil to lubricate the skin. Sometimes touching her very gently on or around her button (clitoris) will enable her to relax even more. I keep both hands there and busy all the time while crowning … doing whatever seems most necessary.


Sometimes I see that a husband is afraid to touch his wife’s tits because of the midwife’s presence, so I touch them, get in there and squeeze them, talk about how nice they are, and make him welcome.

There is no possible medical or scientific justification for fondling women’s breasts and genitals without express permission. PERIOD. Unless Gaskin has her patients sign advanced consent for “tit squeezing” and clitoral stimulation, she has committed a sexual violation. What’s worse, she violates victims when they are most vulnerable, in pain and unable to advocate for themselves.

That’s the final piece that brought everything into focus.

It’s long past time to recognize this woman for what she is, a cult leaders whose empirical claims have no basis in fact, whose recommendations have caused countless preventable neonatal deaths, and who uses shame and guilt to discipline her followers.

Ina May Gaskin has condemned herself with her own words. Her followers have known about this reprehensible behavior for years and have excused or ignored it as is typical in a cult. This woman is not worthy of anyone’s admiration. She is worthy of condemnation in the strongest possible terms.

Abuse is abuse, even when it is committed by one woman on another, even when it is done under the guise of medical “care,” and even when the perpetrator is widely beloved by other members of the cult. There is no possible justification for this behavior.