“My wife and neighbors are afraid of what will happen to them if Diane Goslin gets shut down,” said the Amish spokesperson at a Harrisburg rally last Friday in support of a local midwife. Diane Goslin, a lay midwife from near Strasburg in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is faced with a $40,000 fine by the state for allegedly practicing midwifery without a license.
About 300 people, many of them Amish, descended on the state capitol to show their support for her, after she and her lawyer were summoned to a hearing before the State Board of Medicine. The Amish much prefer to give birth to their children at home rather than in a hospital. Daniel King, the Amish spokesperson at the rally, said that lay midwives “can come to our homes any time of the day or night because we have no transportation. There are high costs in hospitals, more disease in hospitals. My wife is more comfortable at home. We have no insurances.”
Mr. King, who is from Quarryville, added “we need lay midwives to continue in Pennsylvania because our children are a gift from God, and so they can continue to come to our homes at any given time, day or night.”
Goslin spoke to her supporters in the Capitol rotunda during the rally. “I am blessed and overwhelmed to see so many of you here to support me today and to express your desire to be free to give birth in the privacy of your homes. As a wife, mother, midwife and teacher, I believe God has given me a calling in the time-honored tradition of serving women in one of their greatest times of need,” she said.
Goslin’s husband Julius also spoke in her defense at the rally. He urged the state to recognize the lay midwives that are already certified, though not by mainstream medical organizations that are approved by the state, which recognizes only nurse midwives, people with more formal nursing training. He also urged that the state should not require any further testing or education. “This is an issue whose time has come …It’s time to stop this witch hunt,” he said.
Many speakers at the rally on Friday argued passionately for the right of women to deliver their babies at home, away from the diseases and dangers of hospitals. Women breastfed their babies on the steps of the rotunda during the rally while children played nearby, trailing bits of food behind them.
Lay midwives do not carry liability insurance the way nurse midwives do, and they are typically less expensive.
Pennsylvania does not normally police the activities of midwives, but it will prosecute if charges are filed. In 2005 an Amish baby died 21 hours after a birth that Goslin attended. The Lancaster County coroner ruled that Goslin was not at fault in the death of the infant, so the state withdrew two counts filed against her. But she still is charged with advertising that she can perform medical procedures which she is not licensed to do, and that she practices without a license.
At the hearing before the medical board on Friday, the state maintained that she performs services common to nurse midwives such as prenatal, delivery, and post-delivery care. Goslin’s attorney maintains that she does not use forceps or vacuum procedures, nor does she do Caesarean sections. Instead, she only assists women in having their own, natural, childbirths.
The clash in beliefs about the value of home births and midwifery was stark. One supporter said that “men and women have provided this service for centuries … forever.” But a representative for the state argued that the licensing of midwives is necessary “to ensure that services to the public are provided by professionals, trained and educated under the standards of Pennsylvania law, to ensure the safety of the public.”
It is clear from the news stories which of these competing values are supported by the Lancaster County Amish. Everything in their culture focuses on their homes, including, obviously, natural births.