Background on the
H.O.M.E. Class Action Lawsuit

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The following background information should help in understanding the series of events that have taken place in New York State and what we are going to accomplish with the Class Action Lawsuit.

1992: Passage of the Professional Midwifery Practice Act. Midwifery is separated from Nursing. The new title "Certified Midwife" is to designate the new midwifery program graduates or anyone who can prove "equivalency" and pass the qualifying exam. The law incorporated all previously certified midwives. Traditional midwives, those that provide the majority of homebirths, are not incorporated but instead have been prosecuted under this law. Most Certified Nurse Midwives are precluded from homebirth practice due to the statutory requirement for a written practice argument from a physician. Only a few physicians will give permission for a midwife to practice in a home setting.

1994: Homebirth midwives Karen Pardini and Julia Lange Kessler are served with orders to cease and desist the practice of midwifery. Because they are charged in a Department of Health(DOH) proceeding, administrative hearings (17 days) take place without a right to a jury.
The administrative judge is an employee of the very same department that has pressed the charges against them. The decision of the commissioner of the same department was rendered almost two years later. Their fines for unlicensed practice totaled $19,000.
Also during this time a federal lawsuit is filed against the state by Julia Lange Kessler and a number of consumers. The lawsuit spoke to the rights of midwives to practice and provide homebirth services. The lawsuit also addressed the rights of consumers to give birth where and with whom they choose. A trial was not granted in the lower courts and was appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Between 1994-1997: Fifteen homebirth midwives are either ordered to stop practicing or arrested. Homebirth parents have been called before grand juries,have had their homes searched and have been harassed by the police, the DOH and the Attorney Generals office.

1995: Homebirth midwife Roberta Devers Scott is arrested, handcuffed, and charged with a felony for unlicensed midwifery practice. The charge is reduced to a misdemeanor and Roberta pleads guilty under threats of imprisonment. Roberta is appealing the misdemeanor charge, oral arguments will be heard this summer.

1996: Two Massachusetts midwives (who practice legally in their home state) are charged with unlicensed practice in NY. These midwives also plead guilty to a reduced charge.

1996 and 1997: Hundreds of consumers come to rallies scheduled on four separate occasions to call attention to the lack of legal homebirth providers and their inability to exercise their right to birth at home. Families are fed up with the criminalization of midwives and their dwindling options to have attendants provide homebirth services.

Also in 1996 and 1997: The Governor, State Board of Education, DOH, and the NY State Midwifery Board have been inundated with thousands of letters by consumers and others expressing outrage, concern and questions about the State's position on homebirth attendants and the consumers right to homebirth. These letters have made the ground fertile for a Class Action Lawsuit which is the next logical step in the process to secure legal homebirth.

1997: The federal case which was not heard in the lower court was appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate decision upholds the lower court's ruling that the state may regulate midwifery but the door is left open by the court as to whether homebirth is a fundament right which is being infringed upon by the State's regulation.

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Last updated Friday, August 29, 1997

H.O.M.E Homepage Get involved! Here's what you can do! Questions & Answers Why Homebirth? Information and Resources Background Infomation on the NY Situation Contacts and Credits