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URGENT! Carol Needs Help! Midwives and the law

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Carol Severson is an Oregon midwife facing a terrible and unjust challenge!

(scroll to the bottom of this article for update)

Here is Carol's story, in her own words:

I will be in court on June 24, 2004 at 1:30 pm to plead "NOT GUILTY" to a charge brought against me by the District Attorney of Marion County of "Criminal Mistreatment in the 2nd degree".

For those of you have not heard what is happening, on January 31,2001, I delivered a baby with a moderate dystocia and cord around the neck 2 times. Apgars were 3, 7, 9. Baby responded well with our initial efforts of bag and mask.. It was apparent after some time that this baby needed more help, so we transported to the nearby hospital. Baby responded well.

SOMEONE called Salem police, an investigation was made and mistake # 1 (even if you are innocent, NEVER talk to police without an attorney present!). Then on April 16, I was contacted by a investigator who wanted to ask me questions, (Bigger mistake NEVER, NEVER, talk to an investigator without an attorney present!!) but, having nothing to hide, I talked to him. By the way BABY is FINE and parents know nothing of what is going on, to my knowledge. (Mom of baby called the following day to ask me question about birth certificate and tell me the baby had been to the Ped for check up and was doing really good, in the 90th percentile).

The investigation went poorly, he made me feel like a fool, scoffed at me. That was one of the worst days of my life. No "rights" were read to me because he wasn't arresting me, that day. The following week I was given the choice of coming and picking up my citation and being booked (finger prints and all) or them coming out hand-cuffing me and taking me to the jail where they would do it.

This can happen to anyone of us, even if the baby if fine. Without a trial this has already cost me close to $4000, and if it goes to trial, ???? $10,000+

I represent all midwives in Oregon and I am going to do my best. I followed my guidelines as a licensed midwife!

The piece of paper given me in the Circuit Court says that I "having assumed the care, custody and responsibility for the supervision of........., did unlawfully and with criminal negligence withhold necessary and adequate medical attention".

If I had called 911 maybe I wouldn't be dealing with this issue.

Yes it has been hard for me, I have never been involved with the law, don't know the process. I dismissed my first attorney because he told me he "loved to go to trial" and after the fourth meeting I decided it would be in my best interest to find an attorney that would try to keep this from going to trial, since that baby is fine. First attorney also said I needed to take out a loan for $15,000 and at that it was still going to cost me more.

I know there is a reason for all of this, if nothing more than a "wake up call" to ALL midwives. If this goes to trial I will let everyone know. Those of you who have the time and want to attend Thursday court are welcome. It will be short, I just plead "not guilty" and a trial date will be set. My new attorney is going to meet with the mother of the baby and see if she will sign an affidavit to get this dropped. Then it will be left up to the court for them to decide if they still want to go to trial. If she signs, this would be an important time for all of you who can come to support midwifery and be there the day it goes to the court to be determined trial or be dropped.

(Update: Carol entered a "Not Guilty" plea and a court date was set)


Every midwife, every student, every apprentice, every homebirth family should rally around Carol.  Any of us can find ourselves in a similar situation. Following the rules, obeying all the guidelines, is not a guaranteed protection against an unjust legal attack.

This is an attack against ALL midwives, against Homebirth, and against Midwifery! Support Carol as she fights this charge! Help protect Midwifery!



Date: July 28, 2004

Time: 8:30 AM

Place: Marion County Courthouse,

100 High Street NE

Salem, Oregon

(be aware that court dates may suddenly change! Check your email or this website or Pacific Northwest Midwives for updates!)

HELP WITH FINANCES! (Think how we would feel if WE were the midwife facing this! Wouldn't we hope for help from our sister midwives?)

THE FASTEST AND MOST EFFECIENT WAY TO FUNDRAISE IS TO OPEN OUR OWN CHECKBOOKS! Even if only fifty of us contribute $50 each, Carol will be able to pay $2500 of her attorney fees! Some of us may be able to contribute more and others less, but lets each send every dollar we can! Helping with attorney fees is the best way we can show our support. And Carol deserves our support! She's well-known to Oregon midwives, an old friend and a good midwife!

Mail contributions to help pay attorney fees:

Carol Severson

2532 Santiam Hwy SE

PMB 314

Albany, OR 97322

Or use paypal to:

(you can click on the logo button below to send directly to Carol's paypal account)


  Check back soon for more information on Carol's case! I'll keep this page current!

COME TO COURT! Carol is scheduled for 8:30AM July 28th at Marion county Courthouse in Salem Oregon. She would love to have us present!

In other news:
Midwives and Women and the Law!
Women continue to struggle for the right to control their bodies and their births. Families continue to struggle for the right to provide their children with safe homes, and to raise them within their religious beliefs-- for many couples, this process "starts" with homebirth. Midwives continue to struggle to provide care to the families they serve. They all struggle to explain to others the importance of privacy and faith in their decisions they make about where they will give birth and who will attend them. They all struggle with a non-understanding society, and a legislative bureaucracy, strongly influenced by the medical and insurance industries.

The struggle continues today, and midwives are the ones who are targeted and attacked simply for helping families give birth in their own ways and in their own homes. Its hard to believe that helping people is considered a crime but it is, in some states. And midwives have been sent to jail for doing NOTHING MORE than helping the families they serve.

If you value homebirth:

If you value privacy:




Religious belief:

 Individual rights:

 If you value the basic right to make your own decisions:

The right to bring up your children within your own home and family structure:

If you value the rights guaranteed in the US Constitution.

Then you will do your best to protect these rights!

You will do whatever you can to support and protect homebirth. You will do whatever you can to support and protect the midwives who risk so much. And you will do what you can to support and protect those midwives who suffer under a misguided legal system. They are being punished for helping families!

What can we do to help THEM?

These are just a few of the midwives who are being punished for helping women!

In California, Nan Koehler, was sentenced to one year in jail for delivering a baby who suffered brain damage during labor. (This is a sad case, but it's a fact of life that a baby may be born damaged -- even in hospital; even with every medical tool available; even when everyone does everything right with the best technology on the planet).

Freida Miller in Ohio used a prescription drug to save the life of a severely bleeding woman. She was sentenced to jail on a contempt of court charge for refusing to implicate the person who gave her the medicine.

In Canada, Gloria Lemay was sent to jail for the crime of "being a midwife". Read more here

In Canada, the effort to license and control midwife has had serious consequences for Canadian women as well as for their now-outlawed midwives.

A Nevada midwife was charged with child endangerment for attending a birth where the baby developed respiratory difficulties from meconium aspiration. Meconium-stained amniotic fluid is common (about 15% of all births), but meconium aspiration is rare, unpredictable and unpreventable. It occurs in hospital births as well as home-births and it's treated the same way -- the baby is sent from the deliver room (or place of delivery) to the NICU for observation or treatment. This baby recovered without difficulties. 

The midwife was charged with a single count of felony child abuse and neglect which could potentially carry a punishment of between two and 20 years in prison! She had to post a $3000 bail, and --if the case goes to trial - her defense expenses could amount to $10,000 or more.

A legal defense fund has been set up. Contact Margie Dacko at for more information about the case and the fund. 

An editorial by Marsden Wagner in the British medical publication the Lancet (vol. 346), calls the prosecution of midwives a  Global Witch Hunt.

And although many midwives are women of faith strongly object to the word "witch", the term "witch hunt" is aptly used to describe unjust persecution, and innocent people unfairly accused.

Protect your rights! Protect the babies! Protect the midwives!