Friday, August 19, 2011

Letter to accompany LA Times’ article re Katie McCall’s conviction

By Carol Downer

I stumbled upon Katie McCall’s trial by accident. I was in the County Courthouse when Rebecca Pridiletto passed me in the hall and she told me about it. The trial was almost over, and I wasn’t able to hear the proceedings, so I wasn’t able to find out the bare facts until I read the L.A. Times’ article. There were about 20 women, mostly friends, family and fellow church members in attendance. When I asked where I could obtain more information about the trial, I was told that the Judge had forbidden any publicity, making Katie take down her website and had forbidden those in attendance from discussing what they observed in the courtroom with each other or anyone else.

I do not practice criminal law, so I had to do some quick legal research into “gag orders” and found that in California, they are disfavored and only issued when there are strong reasons why publicity would be harmful to the defendant getting a fair trial. There has to be notice, and the parties have a chance to oppose any motion for such a gag order. I do not know what happened in this case.

The L.A. Times’ article states that both mother and baby are fine and that Katie McCall is now licensed as a midwife, therefore I fail to see the purpose behind this prosecution. In fact, since the shoulder getting “stuck” during birth constitutes one of the rare situations where expert assistance or technology are vital, it seems possible that McCall may have performed a tremendous service.

In my opinion, understanding these prosecutions can only be approached from a political perspective. The male-dominated medical profession has waged a relentless battle against midwives, ever since doctors have served the general public, not just wives of royalty and the wealthy elite, and presently midwives in the United States delivery only a small percentage of babies.

Has this takeover benefitted women? Generally, I think not. Depending on local economic and cultural conditions, midwives have either been experienced women who shared a common lore regarding childbirth practices and provided birthing women with a high quality of services, or they sometimes were simply older women who supplemented their incomes by bringing their help and experience to birthing women, and their expertise was questionable. When doctors took over, sometimes the care women received was improved, but many, many times, it was not, and sometimes it was disastrous. Today, we see childbirth turned into a medicalized event, replete with drugs, surgery and isolation from loved ones and community.

Unfortunately, there really is no organized, political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. Midwifery is an old and honorable profession; not a social or political movement. In contrast, the medical profession is extremely well organized with it “code of silence”, and its paid lobbyists. They have used mystification of the birth process and parents’ fear of pain and death to convince the public that birth is a medical event and should only take place in a hospital, and they have used their money and political influence to get laws passed in every state to maintain their stranglehold on the “business” of childbirth.

As I find out more about this case, I will keep you posted.

LA Times article hyperlink -


nocirc said...

Thank you for your sound article! As technology progressed, the USA went further down the list of countries with the best maternal/infant outcomes. We're 43rd or so. Where mothers are attended by midwives, the outcome is always best. Home is the safest place for normal birth. It's sad that doctors are so threatened by midwives, they should be delighted to work with them, side by side. Sadly, the patriarch is territorial. Perhaps, when we are even lower on the list, they'll recognize they, indeed, do need midwives, the ones who know how to make birth safe, joyful, and the blessed event it is meant to be!

midwifenlife said...

Thank you so much for your insight.‎ Here is a link to support Katie. Please pass it on:


Susan Jenkins said...

Good blog. Thanks for your insight and for sharing the information about the gag order.
There is a movement to bring back midwives and to undo the AMA's early-20th Century anti-midwife campaign. It's called The Big Push for Midwives Campaign (or just PushforMidwives) and our website is We are a coalition of state midwifery and consumer groups that are working to secure legislation that will legalize midwifery again, which is a state-by-state endeavor. We are also working with the California Association of Midwives and a consumer group called BORN to make some much-needed changes in California's present midwifery law, including getting midwifery out from under the Board of Medicine. Since 2005, 8 states have changed their laws to make midwifery legal and regulated, so that at present midwives can practice legally in 27 states, but there are still statutory prohibitions of one kind or another in 23 states, DC, and Puerto Rico. Check out our attorney/law student facebook page, Legal Advocates for Birth Options and Rights, and let us know if you would like to join our yahoo group for lawyers and law students. I'm Legal Counsel for the Big Push and we welcome all friends and supporters.

Knitted_in_the_Womb said...

I wonder if the fact that she is in practice with Dr. Stuart Fishbein has anything to do with this situation? If so, it is purely political.

Dana said...

Sometimes, stories and cases are simply what they are and in this case, I have no doubt that Katie deserved her conviction. I hired her as a Doula in 2010 and she conveniently falied to mention any of the events that took place years before. Knowing that my previous two babies had died and a midwife had left me to deliver my dead daughter with only my husband present, she confidently said that she would NOT fail me. She took my money, she repeatedly failed to show up to appointments on time, answer phone calls and I respectfully asked for the refundable portion of our contract back. She never again responded and after she lost the small claims case we filed, she has yet to pay the court ordered amount she owed us. I was not at all surprised to read the article on the L.A. Times and hope she gets what she deserves. Being a single mother (which I was for a long time) does not make you an innocent victim. Someone needs to speak some truth in this respect.

Ksnatie said...

@Knitted: I do not doubt that at all.

@Dana: Sweetheart, I only failed to show up for one appointment, an extra one I offered to do for no charge because you thought it would be neat for me to meet your mother and I told you I was unable to be there because my son was hospitalized at Cedars Sinai. I'm really sorry that upset you so and I wish that I could have been available to you. But the response I got was for you to fire me as a result, despite my explanation that my son was hospitalized. According to contract, most doulas (including me) do not offer refunds for cancellations within a few days of your due date. Obviously there are always two sides to each story, but when you hired me I was told by the state that my investigation was dropped and I was given my license as a midwife already. Just wanted to offer my side of the issue for clarity. I am very sorry that you have not found peace with those facts and I am more than happy to speak with you if you'd like to talk further.