By Cheyenne Francis
On Dec. 11, when CNN acclaimed Robin Lim (a former Iowan) as its “Hero of the Year,” 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 said, “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 that has gained Lim international renown could have landed her with felony charges had she been 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 can be 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 health care costs can be prohibitive. In fact, the World Health Organization itself champions the cause of midwifery in such countries.
What many people don’t realize is that midwifery care, with its personalized approach, saves lives even in Western and other modern nations. The United States is a far cry from the safest place on Earth to give birth. Those nations that outdo us — mainly in Europe, as well as Japan — use midwifery care for 70 percent of all births.
Ina May Gaskin, Iowa-born and educated midwifery champion and matriarch, has proved 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. More than 2,000 births there have had low rates of anesthesia use, forceps deliveries, and episiotomies; and a Caesarean birthrate of less than 2 percent — phenomenal in a country with an alarming nationwide c-section rate of 32 percent (two to three times the number that WHO deems safe and beneficial).
And so I ask: Are midwives such as Lim heroes or felons?
America at large has given its answer in voting 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.”Cheyenne Francis of Mount Sterling is a midwifery and journalism student seeking her midwifery certification in another state. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org